Negotiating Global Change: Progressive Multilateralism in Trade in Telecommunications Talks

in International Negotiation
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Abstract

This article provides an analysis of negotiated change within the global telecommunications regime. It examines how agreements are achieved in the area of trade and telecommunications, particularly within the aegis of the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO). It argues that, in the negotiations examined, the interplay between unilateral action, bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral processes and the ensuing alchemy of coercion and concord led to an overall reframing of the central problem and thereby facilitated multilateral consensus. Drawing upon evidence from Japan-U.S. bilateral, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and multilateral trade and telecom talks, this research tests the proposition that coercive pressure is the predominant factor in bringing about negotiated change. It also considers the alternate thesis that integrative reframing, involving the search for mutual gains, was paramount in facilitating change. Qualitative observations signal the phenomenon of progressive multilateralism, or the sequential interplay of unilateral action, bilateral, and multilateral processes, wherein undercurrents of coercion reorient perceptions of the outcome from uncertain gains towards loss avoidance. Together with information exchange and interaction, one observes position change. Understanding the dynamics at important impasse points facilitates a critical, political-economy reading of these international negotiations as well as more general conclusions about the nature of governance in this area.

International Negotiation

A Journal of Theory and Practice

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