Strategic Delaying and Concessions Extraction in Accession Negotiations to the World Trade Organization: An Analysis of Working Party Membership
World Trade Review 12 (4), 2013, pp. 669-692
47 Pages Posted: 16 May 2010 Last revised: 4 Dec 2013
Date Written: June 1, 2011
Accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is unlike accession to other international organizations. It is extremely demanding on applicant countries, time consuming and essentially power- rather than rule-based. This article argues that existing WTO members select themselves into the Working Party of applicant countries, the body which determines the timing and conditions of accession, in order to have the option to strategically delay membership by the applicant and/or extract concessions from it. Existing members will select themselves into a specific Working Party if their own trade interests are strongly affected, which will be the case if the existing member’s bilateral trade with the applicant country forms a large share of its income, unless both countries already have a preferential trade agreement (PTA) between them. Trade interests are also strongly affected if the existing member competes with the applicant in terms of export product and market structure. Conversely, where both member and applicant have more PTAs with third countries of large economic size in common, potential accession will affect the member’s trade interests less. An empirical analysis of Working Party membership since 1968 estimates to what extent these three different facets of trade interests are substantively important determinants of Working Party composition.
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