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Scope and Trade Agreements

  • Scott Morgenstern (a1), Arturo Borja Tamayo (a2), Philippe Faucher (a3) and Daniel Nielson (a4)


Abstract. With a focus on NAFTA, we offer an alternative model of trade negotiations that explains why the dominant partner is able to force concessions only on some issues. Key to our model is the concept of scope. The environment side agreement excited wide swaths of society; thus, scope was high and international power asymmetries appear to explain the result. Power asymmetries seemed unimportant, however, when bargaining over issues that affected small portions of society, such as individual tariff levels. Finally, in issues of medium scope, such as the rules of origin for the textile industry, power asymmetries and elements of traditional bargaining models likely account for the negotiated outcomes.

Résumé. Ce texte explique pourquoi, au cours de la négociation d'une entente commerciale, le pays dominant n'a pas en général intérêt à imposer ses préférences aux pays partenaires. Le concept de “ scope ” (ou de portée) sert à distinguer entre les différents enjeux d'une négociation. La négociation du traité de l'ALENA sert ici de cadre pour l'application de notre proposition. Parce que d'importants secteurs de la société jugeaient prioritaires les enjeux soulevés par l'accord parallèle sur la coopération dans le domaine de l'environnement, l'issue des discussions a été imposée au plus haut niveau par les dirigeants américains. En revanche, les taux tarifaires appliqués aux différents produits ne concernent chacun que des groupes restreints. Sur ces enjeux, les rapports de puissance ne jouent pas. Enfin, ce n'est que sur les enjeux intermédiaires, tels que les règles d'origine pour l'industrie textile, que les processus familiers de négociations internationales rendent compte de la réalité de façon satisfaisante.


Corresponding author

Scott Morgenstern, Department of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA 15260;
Arturo Borja Tamayo, US–Mexico Commission for Educational & Cultural Exchange, Berlín 18, 3er piso, Col. Juárez, CP 06600, México DF;
Philippe Faucher, Department of Political Science, University of Montreal, Montréal QC, Canada H3C 3J7;
Daniel Nielson, Political Science Department, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, USA 84642;


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