Global Governance: The World Trade Organization’s Contribution


  • Andrew D. Mitchell
  • Elizabeth Sheargold



Democracy and administrative law concern ideas of governance, legitimacy, and accountability. With the growth of bureaucracy and regulation, many democratic theorists would argue that administrative law mechanisms are essential to achieving democratic objectives. This article considers the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) contribution to governance both in terms of global administrative law and democracy. In relation to administrative law, it first explores the extent to which the WTO’s own dispute settlement process contributes to this area. Second, it considers the operation of administrative law principles embedded within the WTO Agreements on Members. For example, the WTO Agreements require that certain laws be administered “in a uniform, impartial and reasonable manner.” This obligation was recently considered by the Appellate Body, but uncertainty remains about the scope this provision has to permit WTO panels to review domestic administrative practices. In relation to the WTO’s contribution to democracy, this article first considers the challenges and limitations of the current system of decision making within the WTO and compares it to democratic theory. Second, it examines how democracies comply with the findings of WTO dispute settlement tribunals and how compliance could be improved. It concludes by speculating on the implications of this discussion for public international law more broadly.

Author Biographies

Andrew D. Mitchell

Ph.D. (Camb.), LL.M. (Harv.), Grad. Dip. (Int. Law) (Melb.), LL.B. (Hons.) (Melb.), B.Comm. (Hons.) (Melb.); Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne; Barrister and Solicitor, Supreme Court of Victoria and High Court of Australia; Fellow, Tim Fischer Centre for Global Trade & Finance, Bond University.

Elizabeth Sheargold

LL.B. (Hons.) (Melb.), B.A. (Melb.); Researcher, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne. The authors would like to thank the participants at the Four Societies Special Colloquium in Canada in September 2008, as well as Simon Pitt and Tania Voon for their helpful comments and suggestions.