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WTO Accessions: The Story So Far

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Drawing on his thirteen years of experience as a Counsellor in the Accessions Division of the WTO Secretariat, Peter Milthorp describes accession as consisting of 'government-to-government negotiation, conducted at two mutually interactive levels'. The multilateral negotiations among the acceding country and the collective WTO membership correspond to Putnam's Level I; while the bilateral negotiations between the acceding country and individual members to agree on market access commitments require domestic bargaining and coalition building, and provide evidence of Putnam's Level II schema. Milthorp argues that the most arduous negotiations fall upon the government of the acceding country (that is, Level II), as it must develop a focused yet flexible negotiating mandate, implement economic reforms that may cause short-term hardship to some previously protected sectors, and ensure that negotiations progress steadily — all in order to retain political support for ratification. For accession negotiations to reach the end-game, negotiators must thus engage in both international and domestic diplomacy to create a balanced package that is acceptable to both WTO members as well as domestic stakeholders.

Affiliations: 1: Accessions Division, World Trade Organization Secretariat, rue de Lausanne 154, CH-1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland;, Email:


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