The WTO Single Undertaking as Negotiating Technique and Constitutive Metaphor

Posted: 28 Dec 2009

See all articles by Robert Wolfe

Robert Wolfe

Queen's University - School of Policy Studies

Date Written: December 2009

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Wolfe, Robert, The WTO Single Undertaking as Negotiating Technique and Constitutive Metaphor (December 2009). Journal of International Economic Law, Vol. 12, Issue 4, pp. 835-858, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1528328 or http://dx.doi.org/jgp038

Robert Wolfe (Contact Author)

Queen's University - School of Policy Studies ( email )

Ontario K7L 3N6
Canada

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