Civil society organizations are often seen as playing a crucial role in helping to mitigate the exclusion of weaker states, giving voice to marginalized communities, and raising environmental and developmental concerns within the trade system. The politicization and demystification of the global trade agenda by civil society also opens up space for a more diverse set of actors to influence trade negotiations. This article examines the evolution of the WTO secretariat's engagement with civil society within this context and argues that the dominant mode of engagement, as manifest in WTO Public Forums and civil society participation in ministerial conferences, is no longer fit for purpose. Rather it reflects an outmoded strategy that once served to underscore the existence and value of the WTO as an international organization and works to neutralize political contestation and publicly promote the benefits of free trade. It is now in need of reform.