Free Trade, Sovereignty, and Democracy: The Future of the World Trade Organization

In This Review

Free Trade, Sovereignty, and Democracy: The Future of the World Trade Organization

By Claude E. Barfield
AEI Press, 2001
247 pp. $30.00

The World Trade Organization has come under increasing criticism since it was created in 1995. Some critics, ignorant about what the WTO actually does, inflate the little authority that its members have given it. Others are unaware that the WTO is severely underfunded for its assigned tasks or believe that it does not pursue their preferred agenda. The WTO is also attacked because it operates under international supervision where some critics would prefer none. Barfield provides a useful history of the WTO before taking on its diverse critics and their proposals for reform. He agrees with some but articulately and persuasively disagrees with most. In particular, he addresses the questions of legitimacy and accountability of nonstate actors such as nongovernmental organizations and the WTO. Regarding the former, he believes they can play useful roles, but their direct influence on policy should be channeled through national governments, which usually are more accountable to their citizens; regarding the latter, the WTO and those states that use its dispute-settlement mechanism need to be more transparent so that arguments about particular outcomes are publicly available. Finally, Congress should provide for oversight of actions by any international organizations (including the WTO) that may affect domestic laws.

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