Overlap Management in the World Trade Organization: Secretariat Influence on Trade-Environment Politics


This article builds on recent scholarship that explores the nature of secretariat influence in global governance. By combining data from interviews with WTO delegates and secretariat staff with document analysis, this study examines how the WTO secretariat is shaping trade-environment politics by using its bureaucratic authority to influence overlap management in the WTO. This study argues that secretariat influence is present, but varies in form across cases. It shows up in the forms noted by previous scholars in their examinations of UNEP secretariats (i.e. negotiation-facilitation, capacity building, and knowledge-brokering), but also in previously un-discussed forms of influence such as marketing convention norms, and litigation facilitation. It further argues that secretariat influence matters in that the WTO secretariat plays an important role in shaping the way trade-environment issues evolve within the WTO, shaping its own identity as a hybrid administrative-judicial organ, as well as in enhancing WTO legitimacy with the broader public.