Expressions of Power in International Trade Negotiations: The Case of Agricultural Liberalization

Long, Christina, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Copeland, Dale, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

Leaders come to the bargaining table in international trade negotiations with the need to balance the interests of powerful domestic constituencies benefiting from protectionist trade policy with increasingly strong pressures for market liberalization. Though these countervailing pressures are a constant in trade negotiations, the degree of liberalization achieved in these negotiations exhibits a great deal of variation. Numerous explanations have been set forth to explain this variation, and disagreement remains regarding the role played by the institutional context and the “rules of the game” in affecting outcomes—not only in regards to trade but in all negotiations conducted through formal international organizations. While many argue that variation in the institutional context itself drives variation in outcomes, a large and historically influential literature highlights the role of power, threats, and coercion in explaining divergent outcomes. I will take up this enduring puzzle here, and seek to demonstrate that institutional outcomes in agricultural trade policy continue to be shaped by power politics in spite of the attempted muting of these tactics in the design of institutional forums. While features of the institutional context do play an important role in shaping outcomes, this role is often determined by the most powerful actors who create and selectively employ the rules of the game to tilt the balance in their favor.

MA (Master of Arts)
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