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date: 31 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the fundamental problem of the declining voice of business interests and organized labour in the World Trade Organization. Domestic interests are traditionally seen as a deterrent to trade liberalization. Interestingly, however, the lack of engagement by domestic interests is now often cited as a cause for deadlock in the Doha Round negotiations. The article explains the causes of this disengagement in terms of the oft-ignored heterogeneity of corporate actors. It argues that, for corporations, the broad sweep of the negotiations and the numerous non-state actors from civil society make it difficult to keep the negotiations focused on the technical aspects of business regulation. Regional trade agreements and the dispute settlement mechanism offer more opportunity than the Doha negotiation process. Further, organized labour groups – with their agenda for labour standards – find their position weakened by the rise of the emerging markets (which see this set of demands as a form of protectionism). Also, the contribution of trade to poverty alleviation has blunted the case of labour activists in developing countries.

Keywords: business interests, organized labour, World Trade Organization, domestic interests, trade liberalization, corporations, Doha Round, labour groups, developing countries, poverty alleviation

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