The Making of International Trade Policy
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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).
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Chapter 8: Conclusion

Hannah Murphy


Taking into account the empirical reality of the increasing number of NGOs actively engaged with international trade policy issues and the WTO, this book has sought to shed light on the roles undertaken by reformer NGOs in the international trade regime. I found that while NGOs do not ‘restructure’ states’ interests as suggested by constructivist scholars, neither are they ‘servants of state policy’ (Haufler 1995: 108). NGOs undertake important roles, independently of states, at the agenda-setting phase of the international trade policy process, though their campaign activities inevitably assist various member states that possess complementary objectives. Specifically, through their international campaigns, NGOs publicize neglected trade-related issues; persuade other relevant actors to support their positions; boost the resources of developing member states; and highlight normative rationales for policy positions. NGOs achieve all of this despite their exclusion from the WTO decisionmaking arena. This study has thus found that NGOs certainly do matter in international trade politics, as they do in international politics more generally. In examining the literature on NGOs and the WTO, as well as scholarship on NGOs in international politics more generally (see Chapter 2), I found that the major concerns revolve around the potential of NGOs to rectify the WTO’s democratic and legitimacy deficits and the role of NGOs in creating and disseminating normative ideas and values. For example, sympathy for the causes of many NGOs, especially in the areas of human rights and environmental protection, has led constructivist scholars to focus on demonstrating that normative ideas and...

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