The High Stakes of WTO Reform

Behind the Scenes at the WTO definitively exposes how the trade negotiation process makes it possible for a few rich countries to dominate the trade agenda at the expense of all other countries. It is one of the first studies that authoritatively shows how trade negotiations have developed into “a game for high stakes, between unequally matched teams, where much of the game is played with few rules and no referee” (p. 50). The book attributes the deadlocked nature of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations and the recent disruptions of the World Trade Organization’s (“WTO”) ministerial meetings to the secretive and noninclusive nature of negotiations and decision making at the WT0. Authors Jawara and Kwa base their conclusions on semi structured interviews with a broad cross section of trade officials from all over the world who represent their governments in thirty-three missions at the WTO, on interviews with staffers of the WTO Secretariat, and on their own research. Through numerous examples, the authors show why developing countries in the past have been unable to prevail over the big trading countries at the WTO (pp. 150-83). The authors conclude that to be effective, low-income developing countries must either unite as a bloc (p. 182) or hang on to the hope that they will prevail by virtue of the strength or merits of their arguments (p. 150). By captivating their readers with the intrigues behind the scenes at the WTO, the authors introduce a welcome realism about how trade negotiations actually work5 and how developing countries “find themselves locked in a vicious cycle of political impotence, unfair trading rules and weakening trade performance” (p. 182).