The Role of the Director-General and the Secretariat

Richard Blackhurst

in The Oxford Handbook on The World Trade Organization

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199586103
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

 The Role of the Director-General and the Secretariat

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) serves two principal functions. First, it provides a set of multilaterally agreed rules governing policies affecting both trade in goods and services, and the protection of intellectual property. Second, the WTO provides a forum for administering the rules, settling trade disputes, and pursuing negotiations to reduce trade barriers, and to strengthen and extend the multilateral rules. Two groups of specialists are, in turn, involved in carrying out the second of these two functions – the member countries, or, more specifically, their representatives in Geneva, plus support staff in capitals and the WTO Secretariat headed by the Director-General (DG). This article, which discusses the role of the WTO DG and the Secretariat, provides an overview of the WTO's relatively small bureaucracy and its roots in the GATT. Altered circumstances in the WTO – expanded membership, expanded agenda, a strengthened dispute settlement mechanism, the behind-the-border reach of its rules (and into domestic regulations and values), and the rise of developing countries – have been accompanied by a diminished role for the Secretariat.

Keywords: World Trade Organization; Director-General; Secretariat; trade barriers; bureaucracy; membership; agenda; dispute settlement mechanism; developing countries

Article.  9086 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations ; Political Economy

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