The Regulation of Private Standards in the World Trade Organization

Michael M. Du


Following the proliferation of private standards in global supply chain trade, it has become clear that private standards can have adverse effects on international
commerce and world welfare in the same way as government-imposed mandatory regulations. However, the scope of World Trade Organization (WTO) Members’ obligation in relation to the regulation of private standards under WTO law remains vague and open to divergent interpretations. This article is premised on the observation that the debate should move beyond the search for the most reasonable interpretation of relevant WTO disciplines, and start to engage normative questions concerning the potential role of the WTO in regulating transnational private authority in global governance. In particular, what justifies the role for the WTO, a multilateral intergovernmental organization, in regulating transnational private standards? If such a role is justifiable, how can the regulatory mechanism be designed and implemented in practice?