Does the WTO Help Member States Clean Up?
NCCR working paper no. 201149 by Susan Ariel Aaronson and M. Rodwan Abouharb
The WTO says nothing about corruption. This paper uses qualitative and quantitative analysis to examine whether the GATT/WTO, without deliberate intent, helps nations improve governance. Under GATT/WTO rules, policymakers are obligated to act in an even-handed and predictable manner, to facilitate transparent trade-related policymaking and to provide due process to such policymaking by allowing individuals to comment on and challenge trade related regulations before they are adopted. Even-handedness, access to information, and due process are anticorruption counterweights. Hence we hypothesized that we would see both qualitative and quantitative evidence of improvement in these government metrics among developing country WTO members.
Our qualitative evidence was strongly supportive of our hypothesis. However, our empirical analysis did not show that GATT/ WTO accession or membership over time improves governance outcomes. We believe this surprising result may stem from two factors—developing countries struggle to improve governance and may lack the expertise and funds to translate their commitments into better governance. Alternatively, our empirical findings may stem from problems in our data’s scope and duration. Hence, we hope to encourage other scholars to examine this question.