Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

The Bigger, the Better: Coalitions in the GATT/WTO*

Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

The Bigger, the Better: Coalitions in the GATT/WTO*

Article excerpt


Coalitions are a pervasive feature of both domestic and global politics. Class struggles, interests groups, oligopolies, and alliances are all forms of coalitions. Many social scientists have gained prominence by theorizing about these topics. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are also fundamental institutions responsible for regulating international trade. In the field of international relations, there is an enormous literature on various aspects of the GATT/ WTO: the dispute settlement mechanism (Bown 2004; Busch 2000; Busch and Pelc 2009, Busch and Reinhardt 2001, 2006; Busch, Reinhardt, and Shaffer 2009; Charnovitz 2001, Davis and Bermeo 2009; Davis and Shirato 2007; Kim 2008; Moon 2006; Pelc 2010; Reinhardt 2001; Rosendorff2005; Smith 2004; Wolfe 2005; Zangl 2008;), the effects of the GATT/WTO on international trade (Goldstein, Rivers, and Tomz 2007; Rose 2004; Subramanian and Wei 2007), the overlapping role of the GATT/WTO and other preferential trade agreements (Busch 2007; Haftel 2004; Mansfield and Reinhardt 2003, 2008), and the effects of the WTO's decision-making rules (Steinberg 2002; Tijmes-LHL 2009). However, studies on coalitions in the GATT/WTO are in their infancy. Moreover, most authors who research this topic use a single or few case studies as their sole methodology. This article innovates in terms of both methodology and substance.

We use a mixed-method approach to conduct our research. We analyze 31 cases of international coalitions through a Bayesian statistical analysis to find out the main variables associated with coalitions' successes and failures in GATT/WTO negotiations. To make our results more robust, we use a within-case study design to reveal possible causal mechanisms behind our quantitative findings. We investigate the outcome of two intellectual- property-rights coalitions: the G-10 at the Uruguay Round (1986-1994) and the Public Health Coalition at the beginning of the Doha Round (2001-). Both coalitions are large. However, the G-10 is a broad-based coalition that failed in GATT/WTO negotiations, while the Public Health Coalition is an issue-based group considered an example of success at the beginning of the Doha Round.

The main goal of this study is to understand which type of coalition is more successful in the GATT/WTO negotiations. There are some controversies as to whether issue-based coalitions are more successful than broad-based ones. Similarly, different authors debate whether coalitions with large numbers of participants are more conducive to successful outcomes in GATT/WTO negotiations. Our main statistical finding is that large coalitions are more likely to succeed. Issue-based coalitions are also more successful, but this finding is not statistically robust. Complementing our qualitative findings, our case studies suggest the following causal mechanism: since GATT/WTO negotiations are ruled by consensus, the bigger the coalition, the higher the chances of succeeding. Issue-based coalitions with a convincing message framing hold their members together, keeping the coalition large and consequently affecting its odds of success. Negotiators probably can design issue- based coalitions by selecting the issue they want to fight for. Convincing frames, on the other hand, are both dependent on the strategies envisioned by coalition members and contingent on how others react to the messages put forth and defended by the coalition.

Collective Action

Mancur Olson argues that there is a systematic tendency for exploitation of the great by the small in relation to the payment of collective benefits: "The larger a group is, the farther it will fall short of obtaining an optimal supply of any collective good, and the less likely it will act to obtain even a minimal amount of such a good. In short, the larger the group, the less it will further its common interests" (Olson 1965, 36). Debating whether larger groups can be successful in acting together and furthering their interests has been a hallmark of studies on collective action for more than four decades (Buchanan 1965; Chamberlin 1974; Esteban and Ray 2001; Frohlich and Oppenheimer 1970; Hardin 1968, 1982; McGuire 1974; Oliver and Marwell 1988; Olson 1971, 1982; Ostrom 1990, 2000; Pecorino 2009; Pecorino and Temimi 2008). …

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