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Conditionality, separation, and open rules in multilateral institutions

By Paola Conconi


We examine the implications for the viability of multilateral cooperation of different legal principles governing how separate international agreements relate to each other. We contrast three alternative legal regimes: conditionality - making cooperation in one area a condition for cooperation in another - separation - forbidding sanctions in one area to be used to enforce cooperation in others - and open rules, i.e. absence of any restriction on the patterns of cross-issue cooperation arrangements and sanctions. As an example, we focus on a scenario where countries can enter into selective and separate binding trade and environmental agreements with different partners. Our analysis suggests that conditionality is more likely to facilitate multilateral, multi-issue cooperation in situations where the environmental policy stakes are small relative to the welfare effects of trade policies; when the costs of environmental compliance are high, a conditionality rule can hinder multilateral cooperation. Separation can undermine cooperation by limiting punishment, but can also promote broad cooperation by making partial cooperation more diffcult to sustain. Thus, how different linkage regimes affect multilateral negotiations depends on the structure of cooperation incentives for the countries involved

Topics: JX
Publisher: University of Warwick. Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation
Year: 2001
OAI identifier:

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