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Power, knowledge and resistance: between co-optation and revolution in global trade

Hannah, E and Ryan, Holly and Scott, JM (2017) Power, knowledge and resistance: between co-optation and revolution in global trade. Review of International Political Economy, 24 (5). pp. 741-775. ISSN 0969-2290

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Abstract

It has been recognised that the process of multilateral trade negotiations has been fundamentally altered by the increased involvement of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) since the Uruguay Round. NGOs have helped to increase the voice of the developing world, nullify some of the asymmetries in political power vis-à-vis the rich world, and provide trade analysis to bolster participation. What is less recognised is the growing importance of certain international governmental organisations (IGOs) that provide demand driven advocacy through the provision of knowledge and expertise to developing states that, at times, challenges the dominant neoliberal agenda at the WTO. Unlike NGOs, many of these organisations are able to hold observer status on WTO committees and write member state submissions. Yet, ideologically and in terms of their specific capacity-building functions, these organisations are also distinct from other IGOs operating in the area of global trade. Through everyday actions, ‘insider’ IGOs such as the South Centre and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development undertake work that redresses imbalances of power in global economic governance and transforms the ‘common sense’ underlying trade practices. In this paper, we develop a set of ideal types aimed at unpacking and illuminating the variegated degrees and types of ‘resistance’ exercised within the international trade system.

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