Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - TEST

Negotiating Trade Liberalization at the WTO under the Shadow of Time and Domestic Political Institutions

Eugénia da Conceição-Heldt (Habilitation Project)









Summary Opening agricultural markets to international trade has been one of the thorniest issues in successive rounds of multilateral trade negotiations. Agricultural issues have continuously blocked the successful conclusion of successive trade negotiations during the Uruguay Round negotiations and now in the Doha Round. The causes of impasse in trade negotiations when an agreement would leave bargaining parties in a better position than in the absence of agreement, remains one of the enduring puzzles in the analysis of bargaining. In order to explain this puzzle, this study argues that domestic political institutions and the time dimension of negotiations affect trade policy cooperation. At the national level, domestic political institutions are expected to have an impact in international negotiations in three important ways. First, if the decision-making power is shared between the executive and the legislature, provided that their preferences diverge, cooperation is expected to be more difficult to achieve than in political systems with executive dominance in trade policy. Second, a large number of institutional and partisan veto players is expected to result in reduced concessions of the executive at the international level. Finally, if the party in government has strong linkages to specific interest groups, the executive is expected to take the interests of these groups into account in international trade negotiations.

Using a bargaining-centered approach, at the international level the focus is on the time dimension of negotiations that is expected to intervene in three important ways on bargaining outcomes. First, negotiations are assessed as a process unfolding over time, so that in the early stage of negotiations actors are expected to concede less, as concessions at this stage are considered by the other bargaining parties as a sign of weakness. Second, one has to take a closer look at actors’ fall-back positions because if better alternatives to multilateral trade agreements exist, actors will concede less. Third, in iterated bargaining games actors concede less and will adopt a tough bargaining strategy, since they know that they will be tied into agreements for a longer time.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part sets the stage by reviewing the existing literature on two-level games on trade policy and by introducing a framework of analysis of negotiations. The second part gives a general overview of domestic political institutions in the United States, EU, Brazil, and Australia. The third part examines the five ministerial conferences (Seattle 1999, Doha 2001, Cancun 2003, Hong Kong 2005, and Geneva 2006) as a two-level bargaining process and shows how domestic political institutions and the time dimension influence negotiations on agricultural trade liberalization.

Publications and Coference Papers








Book forthcoming 2011, Palgrave Macmillan, to be published in the International Political Economy series




Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät
Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Unter den Linden 6
10099 Berlin



Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Universitätsstraße 3b
10117 Berlin