The World Trade Organization at Work: Performance in a Member-Driven Milieu

Elsig, Manfred (2010). The World Trade Organization at Work: Performance in a Member-Driven Milieu. Review of International Organizations, 5(3), pp. 345-363. Boston, Mass.: Springer US; 10.1007/s11558-010-9093-2

ElsigRIO.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (263kB) | Preview

This article discusses performance in the context of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Applying the framework by Gutner and Thompson and inspired by principal-agent theory, it is argued that existing studies have underspecified the institutional milieu that affects performance. The WTO represents a member-driven organization where Members are part of the international organization (IO) (e.g., through rule-making) and at the same time act outside the IO (e.g., through implementation). Thus, a narrow reading of the IO (focusing on the civil servants and the Director-General and his staff) will not suffice to understand IO performance in the WTO context. Selected evidence is presented to illustrate aspects of the WTO’s inner-working and the institutional milieu of performance. In addition, the article discusses a number of performance parameters, including the relationship between Secretariat autonomy and performance, the role of information, and the mechanisms of performance aggregation. The article ends by cautioning against quick fixes to the system to improve performance.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science
02 Faculty of Law > Department of Economic Law > World Trade Institute
10 Strategic Research Centers > World Trade Institute

02 Faculty of Law > Department of Economic Law > NCCR International Trade Regulation

UniBE Contributor:

Elsig, Manfred


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 340 Law
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 380 Commerce, communications & transportation




Springer US;




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:14

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:03

Publisher DOI:


Web of Science ID:




URI: (FactScience: 207554)

Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback