Mapping the WTO Interest Group System: Exploring Density, Diversity, and Stability Over Time

  • Marcel Hanegraaff
  • Jan Beyers
  • Caelesta Braun
Part of the Interest Groups, Advocacy and Democracy Series book series (IGAD)


The relationship between the World Trade Organization (WTO) and interest groups has been and still is a contentious topic in many political and scholarly debates.1 One of the key issues in these debates is the access that the WTO offers to a variety of interest groups wanting to participate in trade policy making. Although access to the WTO’s predecessor, the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), was always limited, since the establishment of the WTO in 1995 the number of access opportunities has slowly grown. Despite these new opportunities the level of openness of the WTO to societal interests is still among the lowest of all international organizations (Van den Bossche 2008). Many interest groups, in particular nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), have consequently contended that the WTO needs to become more responsive to their input (Steffek and Kissling 2006).2 The call for more openness to interest groups on the part of the WTO has been much discussed in academic circles, attracting both proponents and opponents. Many students of international trade argue that in order to increase its expertise, accountability, and legitimacy, the WTO should allow a higher number of more diverse societal interests access to its decision-making process (Charnovitz 2000; Robertson 2000; Scholte 2000).3 Opponents contend that the WTO should uphold its system of limited access for interest groups. Given the inherently biased nature of interest group systems, they argue, interest groups from developed countries would likely dominate the scene (Fried 1997; Spiro 2000).


Interest Group World Trade Organization Global Governance Exit Rate Global Civil Society 
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© Marcel Hanegraaff, Jan Beyers, and Caelesta Braun 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcel Hanegraaff
  • Jan Beyers
  • Caelesta Braun

There are no affiliations available

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