The international trade system has been facing a relative decrease in the relevance of tariffs in favour of non-tariff, regulatory requirements (technical, sanitary and phytosanitary standards). The proliferation of these measures, which essentially consist of rules on product labelling and on production processes and methods, may be explained by the growing influence of private agents, such as corporations and business associations. Although these players are willing to develop and enforce a competing regulatory framework such as this on a broader range of topics, this may also generate more fragmented trade rules at both geographic and substantive levels, thus leading to a significant resistance among governments to integrate private standards into the multilateral trade system. Therefore, a mounting debate emerges on the ways in which private standards have been stonewalled in the current negotiation processes of the World Trade Organization (WTO). By relying on Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Framework (MSF), we address this question with a particular focus on the current efforts and struggles within the WTO to incorporate private regulations into the international trade agenda.
private standards; international trade; WTO; multiple streams; governmental agenda; interest groups