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Negotiating North American Free Trade

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Negotiators for powerful, self-reliant states tend to be less responsive to weak states relative to domestic constituents, while negotiators for states entangled in ties of asymmetric interdependence with more powerful states tend to be more responsive to the demands of powerful states than to the demands of domestic constituents. Asymmetrical power does not necessarily lead to asymmetrical results, however, because negotiators in weaker states may, nevertheless, have more attractive non-agreement alternatives and a longer shadow of the future. Negotiators with attractive non-agreement alternatives will be more willing to put agreement at risk by withholding concessions in the negotiation process. Centralized and vertical institutions are often a bargaining liability precisely because weak states tend to be less responsive to domestic constituents, whereas divided government can be a major asset. These propositions are demonstrated through an analysis and reconstruction of the North American Free Trade negotiation process.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia, 1866 Main Mall, Buchanan C472, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z1; 2: Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1S 5B6


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