The legitimacy and effectiveness of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) depends on problem-adequate listing decisions. Decisions are frequently highly controversial, because they commit the member states to imposing trade restrictions on listed species. We examine whether - and how - CITES' impressive institutional apparatus deprives the member states of their bargaining power and empowers actors who can make reasoned arguments on the merits of a listing decision. For this purpose, we demonstrate theoretically that appropriately designed decision-making procedures can diminish stake-holders' opportunities for exploiting their bargaining power and provide room for reason-based deliberation. Subsequently, we explore member states' and other stakeholders' incentives, created by the CITES listing procedure, for refraining from bargaining and accepting scientifically sound decisions. Finally, we examine three recent controversial listing decisions as examples of the actual operation of the listing procedure.