Through The Looking Glass: Transparency in the WTO
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This thesis discusses transparency as a principle in the World Trade Organization. Transparency is used in many contexts within the organization in order to describe phenomena ranging from Agreement provisions to soft law or general principle and from the obligation of member states to publish national trade laws to civil society participation in the WTO. I argue that they all these transparency variations are linked as they relate to the organization’s democratization potential. This thesis has three goals: First, it offers an overview of scholarship discussing legitimacy problems in the WTO. Second, it describes, assesses and offers ideas for improvement for the four different forms of transparency –internal, external, administrative and legal- in the WTO. Third, as a contribution to the debate on transparency and legitimacy in the WTO, the thesis proposes a theoretical framework combining composite democracy and transparency in the WTO to discuss the link between the two concepts. I argue that the four transparency dimensions help make the WTO a more democratic organization. At the international level elections are currently impossible, but other governance rules and practices can advance the degree of democratization of international institutions. Under the theory of composite democracy, democratization is best explored not through the exclusive focus on elections but taking into account other factors, such as adherence to the rule of law, adequate representation, minority participation avenues and transparency. I will examine if and to what extent the WTO’s “transparencies” correspond to the non-electoral composite democracy parameters. My methodology is based on reviewing legal scholarship and WTO documents, focusing on treaties, case law, official speeches and website announcements. This thesis aims to ultimately explore how the democratizing potential of transparency can expand the WTO’s normative space to become more inclusive and effectively address the organization’s legitimacy problems. Improving rules and practices that WTO scholars and diplomats call “transparency” can help with WTO’s legitimacy issues: making the WTO more open and inclusive and trade regulation information easier to access can make the WTO more democratic, and therefore more legitimate. The normative conclusion of this thesis is that more transparent regimes are more democratic.