Research Handbook on Transparency
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Research Handbook on Transparency

Edited by Padideh Ala’i and Robert G. Vaughn

In the last two decades transparency has become a ubiquitous and stubbornly ambiguous term. Typically understood to promote rule of law, democratic participation, anti-corruption initiatives, human rights, and economic efficiency, transparency can also legitimate bureaucratic power, advance undemocratic forms of governance, and aid in global centralization of power. This path-breaking volume, comprising original contributions on a range of countries and environments, exposes the many faces of transparency by allowing readers to see the uncertainties, inconsistencies and surprises contained within the current conceptions and applications of the term.
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Chapter 16: Transparency in international economic relations and the role of the WTO

Padideh Ala’i and Matthew D’Orsi


The establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 has transformed the consensus-based system of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1947) into a rule-based system, encompassing not only trade in goods (GATT 1994), but also trade in services (GATS) and trade–related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS). As a result of this transformation, transparency of trade-related measures has become a central objective of the multilateral trading system, and trade disputes have focused increasingly on the transparency obligations of Member States under the WTO covered agreements. Transparency has become central to the mandate of the WTO as a result of the shift in focus of trade negotiations from the reduction of tariffs in the immediate post-World-War-II period to the reduction of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) starting in the 1960s, and finally, to the current focus on regulatory convergence and harmonization. Historically, trade disputes required that a respondent remove any legislative or executive measure in the form of a tariff, quota, or non-tariff barrier that constituted an impediment to cross-border transactions. Today, the WTO recognizes that many governmental measures, including judicial and administrative measures in a number of related spheres, may also constitute legitimate non-tariff barriers, as they are also integral to the workings of a regulatory state. Disputes now focus not only on the content of the measures, but also the extent to which the measures are administered or applied in a transparent or even-handed manner.

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