Radical Overhaul or Pragmatic Change? The Need and Scope for Reform of Decision-Making in the World Trade Organization
11 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2007
Date Written: January 2006
In 2005, the World Trade Organization ('WTO') celebrates its tenth anniversary. While the WTO is thus still a young organisation, the issue of its reform is already the subject of much debate. In recent years the functioning of the WTO has been severely criticized by opponents as well as by partisans of economic globalisation and trade liberalisation. The opponents have argued that the WTO is 'pathologically secretive, conspiratorial and unaccountable to sovereign states and their electorate'. Partisans of economic globalisation and trade liberalisation have openly questioned whether the current institutions and procedures of the WTO are adequate to fulfill its mission of managing and regulating economic globalisation. After the unsuccessful Ministerial Conference in Cancún in September 2003, the then EC Trade Commissioner and now newly elected WTO Director General Pascal Lamy characterised the WTO as 'a medieval organisation' and called for careful reflection and consultation on the reform of the WTO's institutional structure and procedures. Earlier, in June of that year, WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi requested a group of eight eminent persons, under the chairmanship of former GATT/WTO Director-General Peter Sutherland, to study and clarify the institutional challenges that the WTO faced and to consider how the WTO could be reinforced and equipped to meet these challenges. According to Dr. Supachai, at the time the WTO was established there was 'too little serious thinking on whether the institutional design and practice that had served the GATT [the WTO's de facto predecessor] so well would do the same for the WTO'.
Keywords: World Trade Organization, Reform, Sutherland Report, Decision-Making, Consensus
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation