Informal Caucuses within the WTO: Singapore in the “Invisibles Group”
Date of Issue2009-11-26
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
This essay examines the role of small informal groups in multilateral negotiations by focusing on a case study of the discussions at meetings of the Invisibles Group in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) from 1995 to 1999. This grouping brought together senior capital-based negotiators from key constituencies in the WTO to discuss critical issues on the WTO agenda. The study highlights the role of such informal groups in creating a cross-cutting coalition in favour of the conclusion of multilateral agreements. Such informal groupings are particularly significant in the WTO as the convention has developed that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. As it is impossible to reach a consensus in a grouping of 153 members, the tendency has been to reach out to smaller groups to exchange views and narrow differences, which could provide the building blocks for consensus-based decisions. The essay concludes with the demise of the Invisibles Group in 1999 and explains the flawed reasoning which lay at the root of its eventual failure.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Political science
RSIS Working Papers, 188-09
Nanyang Technological University