University of Tasmania
whole_MurphyHannahLouise2009_thesis.pdf (12.61 MB)

Non-governmental organisations, agenda-setting and the World Trade Organisation

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posted on 2023-05-26, 18:20 authored by Hannah Murphy-GregoryHannah Murphy-Gregory
The World Trade Organisation (WTO), since its establishment in 1995, has become a major target for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) representing a diverse range of interests. Contrary to popular perception, NGOs do not simply stage street demonstrations outside WTO ministerial conferences - typified by the 'Battle of Seattle' protests at the WTO's third ministerial conference in 1999 - but undertake a variety of lobbying activities in their efforts to impact the negotiating positions of WTO member states. This thesis seeks to understand more about the activities of professional NGOs with a broadly reformist platform in relation to international trade negotiations. It does so in order to advance understandings about the varied roles ofNGOs in international politics and their relationships with states. Adopting a governance-centred approach based upon neoliberal institutionalism, I employ three cases of NGO campaigns in the areas of core labour standards, foreign investment rules, and intellectual property. I examine the strategies and tactics utilised by NGOs in attempting to influence decisionmaking at the WTO and the roles played by NGOs in the international trade regime. Given the formal constraints on NGO decision-making input at the organisation and the considerable economic and political costs and benefits of trade liberalisation for states, the WTO serves as a 'hard' test case for assessing the contributions ofNGOs to international policy-making. I find that NGOs undertake roles, independently of states, at the agenda-setting phase of the international trade policy process, though their campaign activities inevitably assist various member states that possess complementary objectives. Specifically, through their international campaigns, NGOs publicise neglected trade-related issues, persuade other relevant actors to support their positions, boost the resources ofless developed member states, and highlight normative rationales for policy positions. However, the three cases illustrate that these roles differ according to the type of policy change advocated by NGOs and whether their campaign objectives resonate with developing or developed nations. While it is unlikely that NGOs will be granted participation status at the WTO in the foreseeable future, an examination of recent NGO activity in relation to the WTO nonetheless contributes understandings of the important role ofNGOs in international politics.


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Copyright 2009 the author Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2009. Includes bibliographical references

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