European Union Negotiations: Processes, Networks and Institutions

By Ole Elgström; Christer Jönsson | Go to book overview

9

Setting the global trade agenda

The European Union and the launch of the Doha Round

Anders Ahnlid


Introduction

Emerging as the largest actor in the world trading system, the European Union 1 has sought to assume a leadership role in the World Trade Organization (WTO). After eight 'rounds' of trade negotiations initiated by the United States, the European Union became the main instigator of the ninth, the Doha Development Agenda, which was launched in 2001.

The European Union met with a fair degree of success in its quest for a new round despite the persistent protectionist nature of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and new demands emanating from civil society on trade policy in areas such as the environment, labour rights and global justice. How could the European Union pursue credible and effective leadership in favour of free trade, given the protectionist nature of its agricultural policy and the new conditions for trade policy making? To what extent was its ability to lead limited by these factors?

Drawing on the 1996-2001 EU campaign to start a new WTO Round, this chapter discusses the prerequisites for EU leadership - in terms of launching and setting the agenda of negotiations - in the world trading system. In doing so, Patterson's expansion of Putnam's two-level game model into 'a three-level interactive game', in which negotiations at the domestic, Community and international levels affect policy options at each of the other levels, is used to frame the analysis (Patterson 1997:141). The intricate interplay between the three levels of the negotiating game is central to an understanding of the outcome - i.e. the Doha Development Agenda.

It is argued that the ability of the European Commission to form appropriate strategies is key to EU willingness and ability to exert leadership. A successful strategy has to strike a balance between what is needed to satisfy EU member states domestically, on the one hand, and what is feasible at the multilateral level, on the other hand. The chapter will trace how domestic preferences of EU member states - through the institutional machinery set up by the Treaty on European Union - were transformed into a common EU position. The rules of the treaty on decision making and external action largely influenced EU policy. The chapter also examines how the European Union interacted with other WTO members to get the new round launched. At the international level the EU stance

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