Domestic-Level Factors and Negotiation (In)Flexibility in the WTO

In: International Negotiation
Jannie Lilja Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University Box 514, SE 751 20, Uppsala Sweden

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Some suggest that the fault lines of the WTO’s perceived failures actually lie in failures at the domestic level. This study examines the factors that can explain flexibility (and inflexibility) in multilateral trade negotiations within WTO member states. To shed light on the role of domestic factors in influencing WTO positions, we examine one member state in connection with a high-level meeting. India at the July 2008 Ministerial is selected primarily for methodological reasons. The empirical analysis provides preliminary support for the proposition that domestic policy-making structures marked by continuous information exchange and coordination are more likely to yield negotiation flexibility in multilateral talks. More specifically, the intense interaction that marks the relationships between actors involved in policy making on Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) and services, where the Indian negotiation position was flexible overall, stands in contrast to what took place in the area of agriculture, where India took a manifestly inflexible stand. Competing explanations fail to fully account for the variation in these negotiating postures. A key insight from the analysis is that organized and regularized consultations, involving the same actors over time, are important. There is also a need for public outreach strategies in connection with high-level WTO meetings.

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