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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.

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The Way Forward: Prioritising and Tackling Constraints

Our findings suggest that the factors that would most enable small states to increase their impact on negotiations vary substantially between countries. However, some patterns emerge. Representatives of small states are very clear on the need to improve the quality of human resources dedicated to trade, to increase the engagement of their political leaders in trade negotiations and to strengthen negotiating strategy. When asked what deeper changes would need to happen for these improvements to occur, emphasis was placed on increasing the priority that governments give to trade, enhancing links between develop ment plans and trade, and strengthening the ability of stakeholder groups, particularly the private sector, to engage in trade policy.

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