Deliberative politics in trade- and-competition negotiations
Trade-and-competition negotiations have been selected as a case of low political salience and low certainty because competition negotiations are not salient to the mass public, entail no concentrated distributive effects for any particular business sector and it is difficult to anticipate the consequences of the alternative choices available. The following empirical analysis largely confirms my expectations under such conditions, namely, that a deliberative politics type to trade politics is likely to characterize trade policy-making. Cooperative initiatives aimed at tackling the international spillovers of national competition policies trace back to 1948, when competition law had emerged as a possible key element of the world trading system during the aborted negotiations for the adoption of the Havana Charter (Doern 1996). Since then, various initiatives on harmonized or coordinated competition policy have been pursued within the OECD and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (Fox 1999). In addition, several provisions concerning private anticompetitive behavior have been included in the WTO’s post-Uruguary Round agreements such as the GATS, TRIPs agreement and the TRIMs agreement (Bilal and Olarreaga 1998). International economic developments that have occurred since the late 1980s and the early 1990s, however, prompted a qualitative leap in the debate regarding the international dimensions of national competition regulations. The internationalization of economic activities resulting from the growing reliance on FDI and acquisitions and mergers with firms in other jurisdictions increased the perception that regulators must find ways to expand their national jurisdictions and to harmonize domestic competition policies (Damro 2006). In this context, the EU has been at the forefront in suggesting that competition policy be brought into step with trade liberalization (Fox 1997). Since the mid-1990s, the EU has supported the adoption of
binding multilateral competition rules in the WTO (Damro 2004). The US, on the contrary, has consistently taken a much more conservative stance, opposing any proposal resulting in the setting up of binding multilateral rules on competition policy and supporting a loose regime for coordination and harmonization. At the insistence of the EU, trade-and-competition finally became a topic for discussion in the Doha Round. In the following sections, I show that a convincing explanation for the EU strategy in these negotiations can be provided by stressing the role played by ideas and belief systems held by European policy-makers. More specifically, the following empirical analysis shows that the EU’s own experience of managing the trade/competition nexus in the context of the internal market project provided with a cognitive map to devise the preferred strategy to cope with global competition challenges.