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Recent efforts by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially environmental groups, to participate in international trade policy-making activities have been met with hostility from the trade community. This article argues that this negative reaction is a mistake. Non-governmental organizations offer the World Trade Organization (WTO) a mechanism by which to 'connect' to citizens around the world in whose interest trade liberalization initiatives are advance. Imporoved responsiveness and representativeness on the part of the WTO and better understanding of the international trading system on the part of the public would enhance the WTO's legitimacy and strengthen its position as a central element of the emerging structure of international economic governance. Non-governmental organizations offer, moreover, a source of analytic 'competiton' to governments that promises to fortify the WTO's capacity to regulate in a manner that avoids market failures and to improve the organization's decision-making more generally, further augmenting the WTO's credibility and authoritativeness. The arguments for excluding NGOs from the WTO, particularly the fear that NGO participation in decision-making will result in special interest manipulation of outcomes, are largely misplaced.
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