Manoeuvring at the Margins

Constraints Faced by Small States in International Trade Negotiations

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Of enduring concern for small states are the numerous constraints they face in international trade negotiations. This study provides evidence that small states can still have an important influence over the outcomes of negotiations if they successfully identify and tackle these underlying constraints.

Building on existing scholarship, Manoeuvring at the Margins is the first attempt to thoroughly analyse the views of representatives from small states on the constraints they face in this area. The authors, led by Dr Ngaire Woods and Dr Carolyn Deere Birkbeck of the University of Oxford, highlight three areas where small states can maximise their potential influence: establishing an effective negotiating team by strengthening human resources; harnessing the support of civil society and the private sector; and improving negotiation strategies. The recommendations they provide will be useful in assisting trade policy-makers in small states to achieve greater success in WTO and other trade arenas.




The growing openness and democratisation of global rule-based trade governance structures have lessened the acceptability of, and reliance on, the overt deployment of power in the pursuit of national commercial interests. Therefore, as states seek to promote their economic interests and advance the welfare and security of their peoples, they are relying instead on diplomacy, negotiation, advocacy and litigation. This de-emphasising of power as the underlying determinant of the outcomes of competitive engagement and interaction among countries should be good for developing countries, which are often weaker than their negotiating partners. These changes should make it possible for develop ing countries to succeed in advancing their interests, even in the face of opposition from stronger states.


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