University of Oxford, Global Economic Governance Programme (GEG), Oxford
Small and poor developing countries face well-known structural constraints and power asymmetries in their international economic relations Their limited economic weight often produces pessimism about the prospects for such countries to international trade negotiations. For many developing countries, participation in coalitions with other developing countries as well as in groupings and alliances with developed countries, is an increasingly popular strategy for boosting their influence. This paper explores what is known about when and how coalitions are effective. It reviews perceptions about the effectiveness of coalitions in enhancing the representation and participation of developing countries in WTO decision-making, and their impact on outcomes, with any eye to yielding lessons for the weakest, smallest and poorest WTO members. In so doing, it considers the following questions: 1) What are the factors that help coalitions work effectively? 2) What could help the weakest and poorest WTO Members achieve greater impact through coalitions? 3) Are different strategies and tactics needed in the agenda-setting and negotiating phases of negotiations as compared to the final deal-making phase? and 4) What level of resources and energy does it makes sense for countries to devote to different kinds of coalitions? The analysis presented in this paper draws both from a review of the scholarly literature and from interviews with leading developing and developed country trade negotiators, experts and support organizations in Geneva, and senior officials in the WTO Secretariat active in the WTO negotiation process. A starting point for this paper is that in addition to the practice of coalitions, perceptions of their accountability, credibility and effectiveness also matter.