The World Trade Organization has often been portrayed as the pinnacle of the multilateral system of global economic governance. Why it has achieved this reputation is puzzling since it is one of the most undemocratic organizations around. Formally speaking, the WTO is a one-country, onevote system. Yet actual decision-making is done by a process called “consensus,” in which the big trading powers impose a consensus arrived at among themselves on the rest of the body. In the WTO, formal parliamentary sessions where decisions are made in democratic institutions are reserved for speechmaking. Real decisions are made in backrooms by informal caucuses whose members are not determined by formal rules and votes but by informal agreement among significant players.

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