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Principal-Agent Theory and the World Trade Organization

Thursday May 6, 2010, at 14:00
Aula 4 - IBEI
Research seminar
Manfred Elsig (World Trade Institute Bern)
The presentation discusses recent conceptual developments in theorizing the role of international bureaucracies. Relying on PA theory, it focuses on principal and agency costs that have been largely overlooked in the literature. In addition, the concept of ‘complex agency’ is introduced. It is argued that there is also a large gap in the literature as to explaining delegation within IOs. Empirically, the presentation focuses on the World Trade Organization and pays special attention to the relationship between contracting parties’ representatives and the Secretariat. A puzzle of missing delegation is discussed and it is shown how principal-agent theory can contribute to addressing this ‘puzzle’. The presentation concludes with a cautionary note as to the ‘location’ of international organizations’ emerging pathologies.


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