Inter-Governmental Regimes and Recruitment to Private Regimes: GATT/WTO and the ISO, 1951–2005

Sijeong Lim, Aseem Prakash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Scholars of international relations and public policy recognize that quasi-private actors supply governance services alongside governmental actors. We explore how membership in the dominant trade regime, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/the World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO) influences countries’ incentives to join the quasi-private regime, International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Both global regimes seek to remove trade barriers; the former focuses on tariff and non-tariff obstacles, and the latter on technical barriers. While any firm can subscribe to over 18,000 ISO standards, only national standards bodies, one per country, can become ISO members. We posit that given the substantial political costs of joining GATT/WTO and the relatively low entry barriers to joining the ISO, high trading countries might view the ISO as a (partial) functional equivalent of the GATT/WTO. Our empirical analysis of ISO membership dynamics over the period 1951–2005 lends support to our argument.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-364
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sept
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
2. For example, the Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China was set up by the State Council of China. The Bureau of Indian Standards is a part of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution. The description of all member bodies is available here:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors. Global Policy published by Durham University and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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