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

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Murphy, HL (2009) Non-governmental organisations, agenda-setting and the World Trade Organisation. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

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.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: World Trade Organization, Non-governmental organizations
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2009 the author

Additional Information:

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

Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2015 03:05
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2016 22:59
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