IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Endogenous Learning and Consensual Understanding in Multilateral Negotiations: Arguing and Bargaining in the WTO

Listed author(s):
  • Wolfe, Robert
Registered author(s):

    People at home and trade negotiators in Geneva cannot bargain what they do not understand, and what they bargain must be based on consensual understanding among the relevant actors, whether or not they agree on what to do about it. Consensual understanding is endogenous, arising in an argumentative process of learning structured by constitutive principles of a regime. In a departure from both rationalist and constructivist approaches to negotiation analysis in political science, my goal in this paper is to try to advance analysis of these questions by exploring the contribution that deliberation or arguing makes to learning. My proposition is that something happens at the multilateral negotiation table in addition to bargaining, something that alters either the understanding of themselves and their interests that participants brought to the table, or how they understand the nature of social reality in a domain. Such learning would be endogenous to the negotiations, because it happens through interaction. This approach requires distinguishing simple learning (acquisition of new information about the context, or the preferences of others) from complex learning (new understanding of cause/effect relations in a domain), which also requires distinguishing consensual understanding from a mutual adjustment of positions. I then specify how this model might be susceptible to empirical investigation. I show how individual issues within a negotiation can be treated as cases susceptible to comparative analysis at a moment in time. I explore this possibility in a comparison of the contribution of consensual understanding to the outcome of negotiation of selected issues in the current Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations in the World Trade Organization. I then infer the results of arguing from the textual deposits left by negotiations in order to assess the presence or absence of consensual understanding. Finally, I attempt to correlate consensual understanding with the negotiation status of the issues as of the end of the failed Doha Round ministerial of July 2008.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by Canadian Agricultural Trade Policy Research Network in its series Working Papers with number 90885.

    in new window

    Date of creation: May 2010
    Handle: RePEc:ags:catpwp:90885
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Hoekman, Bernard & Martin, Will & Mattoo, Aaditya, 2010. "Conclude Doha: it matters!," World Trade Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(03), pages 505-530, July.
    2. Frankel, Jeffrey A & Rockett, Katharine E, 1988. "International Macroeconomic Policy Coordination When Policymakers Do Not Agree on the True Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(3), pages 318-340, June.
    3. Fearon, James D., 1998. "Bargaining, Enforcement, and International Cooperation," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(02), pages 269-305, March.
    4. Bouet, Antoine & Laborde, David, 2008. "The potential cost of a failed Doha Round:," Issue briefs 56, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:catpwp:90885. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.