Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Dongsheng Zang


Since the 1999 ministerial conference in Seattle, the WTO has been plagued by a series of collapses in trade negotiations: 2001 in Doha, 2003 in Cancun, 2006 in Hong Kong, and most recently, July 30th, 2008 in Geneva. How to understand the stalemates? What is behind the communicative impasse between the developing countries and the developed countries? This article examines a key conceptual framework in the discourse on trade policy: "capture" theories. It tracks two groups of "capture" theories: first, "capture" theories during the 1980s GATT which set the foundation for the WTO, and second, "capture" theories espoused by developing countries in order to resist the world trade order represented by the WTO. In the discourse on trade policy, these two groups share the common language of "capture", but can not communicate with each other. The reason behind this communicative impasse lies in the WTO orthodox "capture" theorists' unwillingness to engage in serious dialogue with the resistance "capture" theories. The article concludes that the WTO orthodox "capture" arguments are bankrupt, and WTO defenders must change their attitudes in order to avoid collapse of the system.