01 Feb 2010

Unexpected Bedfellows: The GATT, the WTO and Some Democratic Rights

The WTO system has democratic rights spillovers. In this paper, we show how GATT and WTO rules induce memberstates to advance several democratic rights: specifically political participation, due process and access toinformation. We use qualitative and quantitative tools to examine this process. Our quantitative analysis found thatcountries that have been members of the GATT/WTO for longer periods of time saw statistically significantimprovements in our metrics for political participation and due process rights. However, we did not have similarlyrobust findings for access to information. We think this may reflect the limited amount of quantitative data availablefor this period. We note that the WTO is to some degree a bill of rights for foreign market actors. Ironically, inrepressive states, its rules may empower domestic market actors who may not have been able to use existingdomestic remedies to obtain information, influence policies or challenge leadership. We urge other scholars to testour findings about how the WTO and democratic rights became unexpected bedfellows.

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