The Limits of Information Revelation in Multilateral Negotiations: A Theory of Treatymaking
46 Pages Posted: 2 May 2018 Last revised: 21 Jul 2018
Date Written: June 5, 2018
We develop the first general model of multilateral treatymaking. The rules by which multilateral treaties are negotiated and take effect differ in crucial ways from those governing other political institutions, such as bilateral treaties, legislatures, and courts. Multilateral treaties usually generate more utility as the number of members increases, but they allow dissatisfied parties to opt-out of the regime. These and other key differences produce a unique, "broader-deeper" tradeoff that affects how states bargain strategically over the formation of multilateral treaties. As a result, existing models of how other political institutions bargain and develop policies do not satisfactorily explain large treaty formation. Using mechanism design, we show how states negotiating multilateral treaties adopt their positions, including to what extent they reveal private information about their preferred policies. Among other things, we find that states that strongly favor a treaty and those that strongly oppose it readily reveal their positions and expected values from the treaty; states that require small concessions to ratify and those that weakly support the status quo request their desired changes. The strategic logic of multilateral negotiations means that imitating another type risks triggering policy changes adverse to a state's true preferences. These findings lay the groundwork for a line of theoretical and empirical research on multilateral cooperation through international law.
Keywords: treaties, international bargaining, international law, international organizations
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