DP16923 The bureaucratic politics of WTO priorities: Where officials sit influences where they stand

Author(s): Bernard Hoekman, Robert Wolfe
Publication Date: January 2022
Keyword(s): autonomy, government capacity, international cooperation, Miles' Law, WTO Reform
JEL(s): D73, F13, F53
Programme Areas: International Trade and Regional Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16923

An original survey of trade policy officials is used to estimate ordered probit discrete choice models to explore a factor not usually considered in analyses of international negotiations: the extent to which representatives of member states and officials based in capitals agree on priorities for cooperation. The analysis reveals that representatives of World Trade Organization (WTO) member states often accord substantially different priorities to policy issues and WTO reform areas than officials based in capitals. This "Geneva effect" varies between officials representing Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries and non-OECD countries, reflecting potential differences in bureaucratic capacity of capitals and the autonomy accorded to Geneva missions on different types of issues. The results suggest that the prospects of international cooperation may be influenced not only by well-understood differences between states that reflect material interests and domestic political economy drivers, but by internal differences regarding relative priorities. An implication is that studies of international organizations should consider the possibility that representatives of states may have different priorities (preferences) than officials based in capitals.