The Making of International Trade Policy

The Making of International Trade Policy

NGOs, Agenda-Setting and the WTO

Hannah Murphy

This book investigates the contributions of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to policymaking at the WTO, challenging the idea that NGOs can be narrowly understood as potential ‘democratic antidotes’ to the imperfections of Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs).

Chapter 1: Introduction: NGOs and the WTO

Hannah Murphy

Subjects: economics and finance, international economics, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy, public policy

Extract

In recent decades the negotiation of international rules to manage trade liberalization has become increasingly controversial. Whereas free market proponents claim that trade liberalization can deliver a range of benefits such as job creation, increased efficiency and technology transfer to the least developed countries (LDCs), critics maintain that it destroys national industries, displaces workers, negatively impacts the natural environment and threatens national identity. For these reasons the World Trade Organization (WTO), since its establishment in 1995, has become a major target for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) representing a diverse range of interests. Contrary to popular perception, the NGOs that target the WTO do not simply stage street demonstrations outside WTO ministerial conferences – typified by the 1999 ‘Battle of Seattle’ protests outside the WTO’s third ministerial conference – but undertake a variety of lobbying activities in their efforts to impact the negotiating positions of WTO member states. Beginning in the mid-1970s, political scientists, international relations scholars and NGO practitioners have contributed to the burgeoning literature on the activities of NGOs in global governance, particularly in regard to the policy domains of human rights, development and the environment. But far less systematic research has been conducted into NGO activities in international economic policy arenas where conditions for influencing policy outcomes are generally considered to be less propitious for NGOs seeking to represent social or environmental interests. Given the formal constraints on NGO decisionmaking input at the WTO and the considerable economic and political costs and benefits of trade liberalization for states, the WTO arena...