Weak Powers and Globalism: The Impact of Plurality on Weak-Strong Negotiations in the International Economy

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Can developing countries effect outcomes in their favor in negotiations with developed countries? This article shows that as global politics move toward a multi-issue ‘diffusion of power’ in which states and other actors interact in a considerably less hierarchical fashion than one characterized by a state-centric security-dominated distribution of power, developing countries are afforded negotiation processes they lacked earlier. First, the negotiation environment is changing. Developing countries are negotiating in scenarios increasingly marked by pragmatic ‘rules of the game’ rather than authoritative or confrontational scenarios of earlier periods. Developing country alternatives have also improved in the diffusion of power. Second, developing countries can now use a host of negotiation tactics effectively. These include inclusion/agenda setting, trade-offs/issue-linkages, coalition building, technocratic and legalistic strategies and direct lobbying in other countries. The article emphasizes the links between issue-specific power structures and negotiation processes and draws attention to the underlying historical context in which these structures and processes arise. Several examples from bilateral and multilateral negotiations are introduced in the article although these examples do not constitute empirical proof of this article's conceptual arguments. In conclusion, given diffusion of power and the resulting pluralism, developing countries are not completely resigned to global liberalism without effecting anything in their favor. Global liberalism is thus not just a top-down process – it can be amended from below. Negotiations matter.

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