Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Restoring Legitimacy to the WTO - Part 7

In conclusion-

Albin describes five issues that are central to WTO procedure and that require jurisprudence. These are; the structures of negotiations, the negotiation process itself, procedures, outcomes/distributive justice, and the post-agreement phase. The 'structure of negotiations' refers to the overall environment in which they take place and aims to deal with the concerns of participation, representations, power relations and agenda-setting. Discouraged participation, insufficient representation, and power politics all de-legitimize the decision making process before it even begins.. The justice issue in the negotiation process refers to the way in which the various parties interact as they build consensus. I suspect that Albin is intimating about any coercive tactics used by nation-states to achieve their desired part of the agreement. This issue differs from the structural issue in that the structure of negotiations is an atmospherically state created by overlapping parties, while the issue of justice in the negotiation process is brought about by individual parties in their approach of others. Procedures in this case, and as before, refer to mechanisms of negotiation, and the justice issue arises when the succession of procedures has loopholes which can give one nation-state an unfair advantage over another.

Loopholes come in the form of non-existent regulation of information green room caucuses in which key decisions are made. The fourth issue of distributive justice refers to the "allocation of benefits and burdens in an agreement"(760). Neither Albin nor other scholars explicitly state that they expect developing countries to receive preferential treatment, so I deduce that this justice issue supports the consideration of relativity. What I mean is, a tariff that is affordable for one wealthy country may signal the halt of exports for another, and this should be considered in determining the numerical elements of trade agreements. After distributive justice is achieved, it must be maintained, otherwise justice issues arise in the post-agreement phase.  

The main concerns in this phase of WTO procedure are the  implementation of and compliance with agreements by member states. When a member state is non-compliant, the aggrieved party has the option of filing a complaint with the WTO's Dispute Settlement Board (DSB). DSB panelists are usually trade experts, economists and corporate lawyers who are either untrained or choose not to focus on the socioeconomic outcomes of the rulings they determine, NGOs , which typically represent social and environmental interests are not allowed access to DSB hearings to submit their proposals (534). It is imperative that economic, social and environmental concerns be incorporated into the ruling of disputes because these concerns are all intertwined. DSB decisions are legally binding, which means that the national laws of the respective parties must amend their laws in accordance with the rulings. In Deliberative Democracy and the WTO, Kapoor notes that this shifts the center of gravity of international trade rules from negative prescription to positive rule-making (528). What this means, is that the WTO essentially asserts itself at a higher position than the legislative bodies of the respective nation-state, and promises retaliation and charges of compensation in the case of non-compliance. The legal bind of the DSB rulings transform the WTO into a law-making body where the three-member DSB panel wields power, rather than a platform for trading nations where decisions are made by consensus.

After defining the measures of legitimacy and justice, and examining the procedures entailed in the WTO negotiations, I am convinced that the credibility of the WTO is in decline. All that is required to see that the WTO deviates from its democratic aspirations is objective analysis of the individual components that culminate in the trade agreements forged between member nations. The most glaring sources of de-legitimization are the undemocratic decision-making process, the inadequate deliberation of the DSB process, the structural inequities intrinsic to negotiation power, the deficient fulfillment of promises, and the hegemonic tendencies exemplified by the Quad. During the course of analysis of each of these delegitimizing concerns, this paper has suggested reforms which can remedy them with the goal of giving the WTO back its legitimacy.

Works Cited

Albin, Cecilia. "Using Negotiation to promote legitimacy; an assessment of proposals for reforming the WTO." International Affairs 84.4 (2008): 757-75. Print.

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