European Union Negotiations: Processes, Networks and Institutions

By Ole Elgström; Christer Jönsson | Go to book overview

11

The European Union and the United States of America

The politics of 'bi-multilateral' negotiations

Michael Smith


Introduction

This chapter starts from the evident significance but also the problematical nature of bilateral EU-US negotiations within the global political economy since the end of the Cold War. It is clear from a variety of recent studies that the intense interdependence and 'competitive cooperation' between the EU and the USA create numerous opportunities for bilateral negotiation and the handling of both disputes and areas of joint action (Levine 1996; Peterson 1996; Philippart and Winand 2001; Pollack and Shaffer 2001; Peterson and Pollack 2003; Smith 1998). What the same studies also make clear is that these bilateral negotiation processes exist alongside and in close relationship to broader multilateral frameworks, which in themselves generate plentiful occasions for competition and compromise. It is relatively unclear, in both analytical and policy terms, what the implications are of this close co-existence and the intermeshing of both bilateral and multilateral negotiation processes. From the perspective of negotiations conducted by or through the European Union, this phenomenon of 'bi-multilateral' negotiation is thus deserving of closer attention. The argument that follows is intended to provide both analytical clarification and an indication of the ways in which empirical investigation can make some sense of this increasingly pervasive form of negotiation.

The chapter deals first with some of the issues raised by recent literature on EU-US relations and argues that existing approaches can be complemented and enriched by use of a negotiation perspective. Such a perspective can identify the multitude of negotiation processes that occur in and around EU-US relations, and can explore the ways in which coexisting processes of bargaining and problem solving find expression in different areas of policy. The chapter next attempts to clarify what is meant by bi-multilateral negotiations and to sharpen some of the questions this raises about the nature of negotiation processes and outcomes, in the light of the negotiation literature. It proposes a number of research questions dealing with issues in EU-US relations from the perspective of bi-multilateral negotiation. In particular, it points to the different ways in which bi-multilateral negotiations can occur: as part of the construction or reconstruction of international regimes, as part of a designed and institutionalized process and as a result

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