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The WTO Single Undertaking as Negotiating Technique and Constitutive Metaphor


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  • Robert Wolfe
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    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. Oxford University Press 2009, all rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Journal of International Economic Law.

    Volume (Year): 12 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 4 (December)
    Pages: 835-858

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    Handle: RePEc:oup:jieclw:v:12:y:2009:i:4:p:835-858

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    Cited by:
    1. Robert Wolfe, 2013. "First diagnose, then treat: what ails the Doha Round?," RSCAS Working Papers 2013/85, European University Institute.
    2. Matthews, Alan, 2013. "DOHA Negotiations on Agriculture and Future of the WTO Multilateral Trade System," 135th Seminar, August 28-30, 2013, Belgrade, Serbia 160370, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Bernard M. Hoekman & Petros C. Mavroidis, 2013. "WTO 'à la carte' or WTO 'menu du jour'? Assessing the case for Plurilateral Agreements," RSCAS Working Papers 2013/58, European University Institute.


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