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The hidden world of WTO governance

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In academic literature the WTO is largely viewed as synonymous with its novel system for the settlement of disputes. We seek to demonstrate in this article that there is more to the WTO than this, and to exemplify this claim by reference to two specific sites of non-judicial governance in the WTO. We suggest that these two WTO committees perform important functions which are largely hidden from view. In particular, we point to the role that they play in generating and disseminating information, and as facilitators of technical assistance and regulatory learning. We also suggest that these committees contribute to the emergence of interpretive communities which serve to elaborate upon the open-ended norms laid down in the relevant agreements. Having surveyed the activities of these two sites of non-judicial governance in the WTO, we then situate them in the context of three contemporary narratives of global governance (transgovernmental networks, global administrative law, and managerialism), and use these as a way of critically evaluating the developments we describe. It is our view that the material that we have uncovered in relation to these two examples is sufficiently rich to justify further research in this domain.

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