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Title: The strategic logic of international agreement design
Author: Sampson, Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 5293
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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Conventional wisdom suggests that weak international actors should avoid concluding ambiguous agreements with much stronger partners because this increases their vulnerability to subsequent exploitation. Why then do we observe so many instances of just such agreements signed under conditions of extreme power asymmetry? I answer this question by emphasising an underappreciated factor shaping the agreement design strategies of actors: Power trajectory. Focusing on international trade, I develop a three-part framework which demonstrates first, that powerful but rising states gain from securing narrow agreements because as the scope of these agreements is broadened, they are provided with more opportunities to use their growing power to secure increasingly favourable deals. Conversely, powerful but declining states are incentivised to conclude broad agreements as a way to lock-in an advantage that will decline over time. Second, I demonstrate that because of the particular vulnerabilities faced by weak states as a result of these narrow agreements, strong but rising powers are often required to make up-front concessions in order to secure their preferred contract and overcome the fears of their weaker counterparts. Third, I show that powerful but rising states can reap the benefits of subsequent rounds of bargaining because the initial agreement has induced the weaker party to make transaction specific investments which serve to drastically reduce its exit options. In developing this framework, I make three contributions; first, from a theoretical standpoint I specify more precisely the conditions under which powerful states choose to tie their hands and so qualify both the liberal claim that powerful states must always do so, and the realist suggestion that they strive to maintain freedom of action. Second, I make an empirical contribution by placing the trade policies of four major economic powers in detailed comparative perspective. Finally, I make a substantive contribution by demonstrating yet another mechanism by which the strong secure their preferences at the expense of the weak in international affairs.
Supervisor: Snidal, Duncan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: International trade--Case studies ; Power (Social sciences) ; International relations