Negotiating Trade in Uncertain Worlds : Misperception and Contestation in EU-West Africa Relations book cover
1st Edition

Negotiating Trade in Uncertain Worlds
Misperception and Contestation in EU-West Africa Relations

ISBN 9781138301023
Published December 2, 2019 by Routledge
232 Pages

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Book Description

This book shows how a constructivist account of bargaining sheds new light on the emergence of impasse situations in international trade negotiations. It uncovers the subtle ways in which misperceptions – and the problems of overcoming them – complicate negotiations. It brings to the forefront misperceptions and sticky beliefs that complicate trade talks between the Global South and the Global North.

Empirically, the book examines the recent negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements between the European Union (EU) and West Africa (2002–2014). In doing so, it enriches the study of negotiations of development-oriented trade agreements in the context of a major North-South partnership. By exploring a constructivist perspective on game theory, the author uncovers how the repeated impasse situations followed from the different "games" both sides expected to be playing. The author shows that such misperceptions endured because they reflected deep-seated normative disagreements not only over the effects of neo-liberal trade reforms, but also over how to structure EU – Africa post-colonial trade relations in the 21st century. Comparing and contrasting both sides’ divergent perspectives helps us to see how trade negotiations are never just about economic interests, but also about the (re)negotiation of the values and ideas that structure state interaction. The book draws on a large set of qualitative primary data on EU-West Africa trade negotiations.

Negotiating trade in uncertain worlds will be of great interest to students and scholars of international relations, international political economy, international trade, international negotiations, EU external relations, EU-Africa cooperation, economic diplomacy, international relations of the developing world, and North-South cooperation.

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables

List of boxes


List of abbreviations


1 Negotiating in uncertain worlds: on the different games states play

2 The impasse in EPA negotiations

3 Misperceiving the rules of the game: EPA negotiations 2002–2007

4 Contesting the rules of the game: EPA negotiations 2008–2012

5 Conclusion



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Clara Weinhardt is an Assistant Professor in International Relations at Maastricht University and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute. Her research focuses on global governance and international negotiations, with a focus on North-South relations in trade. She completed her PhD in International Relations at the University of Oxford; her work appeared among others in International Studies Quarterly and the Journal of Common Market Studies.


"Scholars have long asked about the games nations play. Clara Weinhardt takes us a step further by dissecting with profound analytical flair a decade of fraught negotiations between Europe and West Africa over their new economic relations. Beyond diverging interests, she shows how impasse can be rooted in radically diverging expectations over which game the parties are playing in the first place. If only such disjunctures could be acknowledged and overcome, we would live in a much more cooperative world. This book will be of critical interest to anyone interested in game theory and international affairs, the political economy of trade or EU external relations and Africa."Kalypso Nicolaïdis, University of Oxford, UK

"States sometimes fail to cooperate, even when cooperation is in their interests. This impressive book combines elements of economic and sociological thought to show how states inability to understand one another leads to breakdowns in trade negotiations. Scholars and practitioners interested in global cooperation, difference in international politics, or the future of trade need to address Weinhardt’s important book."Eric Grynaviski, George Washington University, USA

"Clara Weinhardt’s book breaks new ground by deploying constructivist theory to clarify how uncertainty about the rules of the game between the EU and ACP countries led to misperceptions about the interests and expectations of the negotiating partners. The unique contribution of the book lies in the creatively way in which the author convincingly demonstrated how these misperceptions led to miscalculation of possible equilibrium outcomes as well as the ongoing impasse in the negotiations. This book will be a valuable resource to academics working on North-South trade relations, policy makers and trade negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic."Samuel Ojo Oloruntoba, Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute, University of South Africa, South Africa.