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One goal, multiple strategies : engagement in Sino-American WTO accession negotiations Noble, Lance

Abstract

During the post-cold war period there has been much talk in the U.S. of the benefits of engaging countries with whom the U.S. has had a history of confrontational relations. While containment was often the preferred policy during the cold war the argument is now made that these countries need to be brought into international institutions in order to make relations with them more cooperative and predictable. It is argued that doing so serves to make these countries status quo powers that will not actively attempt to revise the international system. International trade theory and U.S. trade policy have not been exceptions to this trend. Talk of engagement can be found in the ongoing bilateral WTO accession negotiations that the U.S. is currently participating in with both Russia and Vietnam. However, the complexity of such negotiations often leads the U.S. to utilize negotiating strategies that appear to belie the rhetoric of engagement. As a result, questions have been raised in regards to the commitment of the U.S. to a policy of engagement. This is misguided in that it assumes that variance in the strategies of engagement utilized by the U.S. qualifies as evidence that multiple goals are being pursued. In fact, variation across sectors of trade, in terms of both the negotiating power of the U.S. and the strength of the domestic constraints it is subject to, ensure that the utilization of multiple strategies in the pursuit of one overarching goal of engagement is necessary. The Sino-American WTO accession negotiations that stretched over the period of 13 years is a strong case with which to test this argument. The size and scope of Sino- American trade relations ensured that terms had to be reached in every significant sector of trade. The fact that significant sections of the American political elite are wary of a rising China also makes it an important case with which to evaluate engagement. Lastly, the timing of this case during the period when the post-cold war policy of engagement was being formulated adds to our confidence that it is a significant case with which to evaluate engagement and trade theory.

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