The WTO Single Undertaking as Negotiating Technique and Constitutive Metaphor
Posted: 28 Dec 2009
Date Written: December 2009
Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) proceed simultaneously, not sequentially, and all Members must accept all the results. I show that the so-called Single Undertaking is both a negotiation technique and a constitutive metaphor. It does not cause an outcome to negotiations, whether in a round or the daily life of the WTO, but it shapes the possibility of an outcome. The methodological innovation of the article is the use of counterfactual analysis to assess whether the Single Undertaking can be relaxed using concepts suggested by the various critiques. I consider rounds of negotiations, the consensus principle, diffuse reciprocity, critical mass decision making, the WTO acquis and special and differential treatment for developing countries. One aspect of integrative bargaining strategies, issue linkage, is also considered. The Single Undertaking emerged in the interaction structured by the regime, and the same process could lead to it being eliminated, but that is unlikely.
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