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Middle power leadership and coalition building: Australia, the Cairns Group, and the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations

  • Richard A. Higgott (a1) and Andrew Fenton Cooper (a2)

Perhaps the key question of debate among neorealist scholars of international political economy concerns the manner in which cooperation may or may not be secured in the global economic order "after hegemony," a question posed by Robert Keohane. A second broad question of interest to scholars of international politics concerns the manner in which weaker states attempt to influence stronger ones. A conflation of these two questions could cause scholars and practitioners alike to pay closer attention than they have in the past to coalitions of the weak as vehicles for cooperation and regime building in the global political economy.

This article offers a case study of one recent exercise in coalition building as an attempt to foster cooperation in a "nonhegemonic" environment. Specifically, it examines the role of the Cairns Group of Fair Trading Nations in its attempts to foster reform in global agricultural trade within the current Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. The Cairns Group is shown to be an atypical, single-issue driven, transregional coalition. Led by Australia, the Group's actions represent an interesting exercise in "middle power" politics in a global economic order whose decisionmaking processes are increasingly more fragmented and complex and whose major actors need coaxing toward processes of cooperative economic management.

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1. Keohane, Robert O., After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984).

2. For a discussion of strategies that less developed countries have used through bodies such as the Group of 77 to secure a new international economic order (NIEO), see, for example, Krasner, Stephen D., Structural Conflict: The Third World Against Global Liberalism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985); Rothstein, Robert L., Global Bargaining: UNCTAD and the Quest for an NIEO (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1979); and Rothstein, Robert L., The Weak in the World of the Strong (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977).

3. Even two of the most recent works on the Uruguay Round make only passing mention of the role of the Cairns Group in the negotiations. See Nau, Henry, ed.. Domestic Trade Politics and the Uruguay Round (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989); and Winham, Gilbert, “The Pre-Negotiation Phase of the Uruguay Round,” International Journal 44 (Spring 1989), pp. 280303. It is for this reason and even at the risk of overstating the role of the Cairns Group that we feel our corrective case study is necessary.

4. Krasner has persuasively argued that a change in the configuration of power was in fact under way in the Tokyo Round. See Krasner, Stephen D., “The Tokyo Round: Particularistic Interests and Prospects for Stability in the Global Trading System,” International Studies Quarterly 23 (12 1979), pp. 491531.

5. Winham, , “The Pre-Negotiation Phase of the Uruguay Round,” p. 290.

6. Ibid., pp. 286–87.

7. The nature of this change is, of course, much contested, but it cannot be reviewed here. For examples of competing interpretations, see Keohane, Robert, “The World Political Economy: The Crisis of Embedded Liberalism,” in Goldthorpe, John, ed.. Order and Conflict in Contemporary Capitalism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), pp. 1538; Gilpin, Robert, The Political Economy of International Relations (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987); Cox, Robert, Power, Production and World Order (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987); Gill, Stephen and Law, David, Global Political Economy (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988); Russett, Bruce, “The Mysterious Case of Vanishing Hegemony,” International Organization 39 (Spring 1985). pp. 207–31; Strange, Susan, “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony,” International Organization 41 (Autumn 1987), pp. 551–74; and Russell-Mead, Walter, “The United States and the World Economy.” World Policy 6 (Winter 1988). pp. 147.

8. See Odell, John. U.S. International Monetary Policy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982); and Block, Fred, The Origins of International Economic Disorder (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977).

9. See Webb, Michael C. and Krasner, Stephen D., “Hegemonic Stability Theory: An Empirical Assessment,” Review of International Studies 15 (Spring 1989), pp. 183–98.

10. See Winham, Gilbert R., International Trade and the Tokyo Round Negotiation (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986). See also Finlayson, Jock A. and Zacher, Mark W., “The GATT and the Regulation of Trade Barriers: Regime Dynamics and Functions,” in Krasner, Stephen D., ed.. International Regimes (Ithaca. N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 273314.

11. For a discussion about the early period, see Maier, Gerald, “The Politics of Productivity: Foundations of American International Economic Policy After World War II.International Organization 31 (Summer 1977). pp. 607–34.

12. Gilpin, The Political Economy of International Relations.

13. See, for example, Krugman, Paul, ed.. Strategic Trade Policy and the New International Economics (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1986); Bhagwati, Jagdish, Protectionism (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988); and Pomfret, R., Unequal Trade: The Economics of Discriminatory International Trade Policies (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988).

14. Hopkins, Raymond and Puchala, Donald J., eds.. The Global Political Economy of Food, special issue of International Organization 32 (Spring 1978), pp. 581880.

15. For an excellent discussion of American agricultural policy in this period, see Roberts, Ivan et al. , U.S. Grain Policies and the World Market (Canberra: Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 1989), pp. 1727.

16. See Johnson, D. G., “Food Reserves and International Trade Policy,” in Hillman, J. S. and Schmitz, A., eds., International Trade and Agriculture: Theory and Policy (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Reinner, 1979), p. 247. See also, however, Cooper, Andrew F., “The Protein Link: Complexity in the US-EC Agricultural Trade Relationship,” Journal of European Integration 11 (Winter 1987), pp. 2945.

17. Sanderson, Fred H., Japan's Food Prospects and Policies (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. 1978).

18. The Economist, 28 December 1974, p. 44.

19. Johnson, D. G., Hemmi, K., and Lardinois, P., Agricultural Policy and Trade: Adjusting Domestic Programs in an International Framework—A Report to the Trilateral Commission (New York: New York University Press, 1985).

20. Lewis, Paul, “Europe's Farm Policies Clash with American Export Goals,” The New York Times, 22 02 1983, pp. 1 and 5.

21. See, for example, Frost, Elaine, For Richer, For Poorer: The New U.S.–Japan Relationship (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1987); Cohen, Benjamin J., “An Explosion in the Kitchen? Economic Relations with Other Advanced Countries,” in Oye, Kenneth, Leiber, Robert J., and Rothchild, Donald, eds.. Eagle Defiant: United States Foreign Policy in the 1980s (Boston: Little, Brown, 1983), pp. 105–30; and Krasner, Stephen D., Asymmetries in Japanese American Trade: The Case for Specific Reciprocity (Berkeley: University California, Institute of International Studies, 1987).

22. For a good discussion of Holmes’ work and the question of middle powers in general, see Nossal, Kim Richard, The Politics of Canadian Foreign Policy, 2d ed. (Scarborough, Ontario: Prentice-Hall, 1989), pp. 4652.

23. Ibid., p. 50.

24. See Holbraad, Carsten, Middle Powers in International Politics (London: Macmillan, 1984), p. 57; Fox, Annette, The Politics of Attraction: Four Middle Powers and the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977); Fox, Annette, “The Range of Choice for Middle Powers: Australia and Canada Compared,” Australian Journal of Politics and History 26 (Spring 1980), pp. 193203; and Forschungsinstitut der Deutschen Gesellschaft fur Politik, Auswartige, The Role of Middle Powers in World Politics, Bonn, 1969.

25. Sanger, Clyde, Ordering the Oceans: The Making of the Law of the Sea (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1987), pp. 52–53 and 55.

26. For a discussion of the division between food-exporting and food-importing developing countries, see Cooper, Andrew F., “Exporters Versus Importers: LDCs, Agricultural Trade and the Uruguay Round,” Intereconomics 25 (Winter 1990), pp. 1317.

27. See Holmes, John, The Shaping of Peace: Canada and the Search for World Order, 1943–1957, vol. I (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976); and Reid, Escott, On Duty: A Canadian at the Making of the United Nations, 1945–1946 (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1983).

28. Fox, , “The Range of Choice for Middle Powers,” p. 194.

29. Canadian, House of Commons, Debates, 21 07 1969, p. 11398.

30. Connors, Tom, The Australian Wheat Industry: Its Economics and Politics (Armidale, Australia: Gill, 1972), pp. 120–21.

31. Renouf, Alan, The Frightened Country (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1979).

32. “Canada Assured on Crop Disposal,” The New York Times, 17 March 1954, p. 21.

33. Keohane, “The World Political Economy.”

34. See East, Michael, “National Attributes and Foreign Policy,” in Hermann, Charles et al. , eds.. Why Nations Act (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage. 1978), pp. 121–42.

35. See the following works by Higgott, Richard A.: The World Economic Order and the Trade Crisis: Implications for Australia (Canberra: Australian Institute of International Affairs, 1987); and “Australia and the New International Division of Labor in the Asia Pacific Region,” in Caporaso, J., ed., A Changing International Division of Labor (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Reinner, 1987), pp. 147–85.

36. For a discussion of Canada's position, see Dewitt, David B. and Kirton, John, Canada as a Principal Power (Toronto: John Wiley. 1983); and Nossal. The Politics of Canadian Foreign Policy. For a discussion of Australia's position, see the following works by Higgott, Richard A.: “The Ascendency of the Economic Dimension in Australian–American Relations,” in Ravenhill, J.. ed.. No Longer an American Lake: U.S. Policy in the Pacific in the 1980s (Berkeley: University of California, Institute of International Studies, 1988), pp. 132–68; and The Evolving World Economy: Some Alternative Security Questions for Australia (Canberra: Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, 1989).

37. Field, Peter, “Without the GATT Round: What Else?” in Recent Trends in World Trade: Implications for Australia (Sydney: Australian Institute of International Affairs, 1987), pp. 16.

38. Hoy, Anthony. “Australia Must Attack in Farm War.” The Australian, 28 05 1986, p. 9.

39. See The Toronto Globe and Mail. 28 December 1981: and The Australian, 6 April 1983, p. 7.

40. See Hasluck, Paul, Diplomatic Witness: Australian Foreign Affairs, 1941–1947 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1980); and Reid, On Duty.

41. McEwen, John. Australian House of Representatives, Debates. 10 05 1965, p. 1635.

42. See, for example, Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Japanese Agricultural Policies: Their Origins. Nature and Effects on Production and Trade (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1981); Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Policies in the European Community: Their Origins, Nature and Effects on Production and Trade (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1985); Miller, G., The Political Economy of International Agricultural Policy Reform (Canberra: Department of Primary Industry, 1986); Centre for International Economics, The Game Plan: Successful Strategies for Australian Trade (Canberra: Centre for International Economics, 1987); Stoeckel, A., Intersectoral Effects of the CAP: Growth, Trade and Unemployment (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1985); and Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Japanese Beef Policies: Implications for Trade, Prices and Market Shares (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1988).

43. OECD, National Policies and Agricultural Trade (Paris: OECD, 1987).

44. See Buckley, Amanda, “Aust Hopes to Help Found Group to Counter Protectionist Traders,” Australian Financial Review, 25 08 1986, p. 10.

45. See The Weekend Australian, 16–17 August 1986, p. 1; and Critchley, Barry, “Fair Traders Taking Aim at Agricultural Subsidies,” Financial Post (Toronto), 23 08 1986, p. 7.

46. Cairns Group, Comprehensive Proposal for the Reform of Agriculture, Chaing Mai, Thailand, 21–23 11 1989.

47. For a good introduction to the issue of confidence building, see Byers, R. A., Larrabee, Stephen F., and Lynch, A., eds., Confidence Building Measures and International Security (New York: East-West Security Studies Center, 1987). See also, however, J. Alford, “The Usefulness and Limitations of CBMs” and Brauch, H. G., “Confidence Building and Disarmament-Supporting Measures,” both in Epstein, W. and Feld, B., eds., New Directions in Disarmament (New York: Praeger, 1981), pp. 133–60.

48. See, for example, two important documents produced by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and published in Canberra in 1989: Measuring the Impact of Trade Protection and Using the Effective Rate of Assistance in Trade Negotiations.

49. See The Age (Melbourne), 26 August 1986, p. I. For a fuller discussion, see Gallagher, P., “Setting the Agenda for Trade Negotiations: Australia and the Cairns Group,” Australian Outlook: The Australian Journal of International Affairs 44 (04 1988), pp. 38.

50. Cairns Group, Declaration of the Ministerial Meeting of Fair Traders in Agriculture, Cairns. Australia, 26 08 1986.

51. Although Australia's role in the international system cannot be discussed in detail here, we should note that Australian foreign policy throughout the 1980s was characterized by a high degree of initiative and activity in a number of forums and on a number of issues other than trade regime reform. In the late 1980s, for example, Australia set forth major initiatives on Asia–Pacific economic cooperation, confidence building in North Pacific security, conservation in the Antarctic, resolution of the Cambodian question, and the control of chemical weapons.

52. See Australian House of Representatives, Debates, 10 October 1986. See also Department of Trade. Transforming Australia's Trade: Annual Report. 1986–87 (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1987), pp. 1720.

53. Schott, Jeffrey J., ed.. Free Trade Areas and U.S. Trade Policy (Washington. D.C.: Institute for International Economics, 1989).

54. Cairns Group, Declaration of the Ministerial Meeting of Fair Traders in Agriculture.

55. Hathaway, Dale E., Agriculture and the GATT: Rewriting the Rules (Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics, 1988).

56. Winham, “The Pre-Negotiation Phase of the Uruguay Round.”

57. See Journal of Commerce, 27 May 1987, p. 10A. See also “Cairns Group Brings Sanity to GATT,” Agra Europe, 23 October 1987. p. 1.

58. Compare the two proposals: Cairns Group. “Proposal to the Uruguay Round Negotiating Group on Agriculture.” no. UR-87-0322. GATT. 10 December 1987: and United States. “Proposal for Negotiations on Agriculture.” no. UR-87-0186. GATT. 7 July 1987.

59. Personal correspondence to Richard Higgott from Peter Field, deputy secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Australia's chief negotiator at the Uruguay Round. 22 September 1989.

60. Australian Financial Review, 14 January 1988, p. 10.

61. See Pratt, Crawford, ed.. Internationalism Under Strain: The North–South Policies of Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1989), pp. 4549.

62. Canadian House of Commons. Debates, 28 April 1987, p. 5357.

63. Peter Benesh, “Canada Breaks Free Trade Solidarity with Subsidies.” The Age (Melbourne). 18 December 1987. p. 9.

64. Snape, Richard H., “Should Australia Seek a Trade Agreement with the United States?” discussion paper no. 86/01. Australian Economic Planning Advisory Council and Department of Trade. 1986.

65. See Cairns Group, “Time for Action: A Proposal for a Framework Approach for Agriculture.” no. MTN.GNG/NG5/W/69, GATT, 13 July 1988, p. 5, which explicitly stated that the LDCs “should be exempted from contributing to the first steps to long-term reform.” See also “Australia Will Recognise Exceptions to Free Trade for Developing Countries,” Australian Financial Review, 22 May 1978, p. 6.

66. See Hoekman, Bernard, “Determining the Need for Issue Linkages in Multilateral Trade Negotiations,” International Organization 43 (Autumn 1989), pp. 693714.

67. See Aho, Michael, “Foreword,” in Paarlberg, Robert L., Fixing Farm Trade: Options for the United States (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1988). p. viii. See also, however, Nau, Domestic Trade Politics and the Uruguay Round.

68. Canada, “Proposal by Canada Regarding the Multilateral Trade Negotiations in Agriculture,” no. MTN.GNG/NG5/W/19, GATT, 20 October 1987, p. 1.

69. See, for example, Sargent, Sarah, “Cairns Group May Lose Canada,” Australian Financial Review, 7 07 1988, p. 5.

70. See Dockrill, Peter, “Aussies Pressed to Cut Subsidies,” Calgary Herald, 8 07 1988; and Winnipeg Free Press, 23 July 1988, p. 41.

71. Australia, , “Illustrative Elements of Commitments to Reduce Support as Part of First Steps to Long-Term Reform,” no. MTN.GNG/NG5/W/70/Rev. 1, GATT, 13 07 1988.

72. Trade Negotiations Committee, “Meeting at the Level of High Officials,” no. UR-89-0029, MTN-TNC/9, GATT, II 04 1989, pp. 37.

73. Field, personal correspondence, 22 September 1989.

74. United States, “Submission of the United States on Comprehensive Long-Term Agricultural Reform.” no. MTN.GNG/NG5/W/118, GATT, 28 10 1989.

75. See Australian Financial Review, 23 October 1989, p. 12.

76. Miller, , The Political Economy of International Agricultural Policy Reform, p. 12.

77. Paarlberg, Fixing Farm Trade.

78. One U.S. observer has recently gone as far as to describe the United States as the bully boy of world trade. See Niskanen, William, “The Bully of World Trade,” Orbis 33 (Autumn 1989), pp. 531–38.

79. We should perhaps note here the manner in which the rounds have progressively increased in duration, with the Kennedy Round and Tokyo Round taking five and six years, respectively.

80. Henry Nau. “Preface.” in Nau, Domestic Trade Politics, p. xiii.

81. See Anderson, Kym and Garnaut, Ross. Australian Protectionism: Extent, Causes and Effect (Sydney: Allen & Unwin. 1986).

82. Gallagher, . “Setting the Agenda for Trade Negotiations.” p. 5.

83. Young, Oran, “The Politics of International Regime Formation: Managing Natural Resources and the Environment,” International Organization 43 (Summer 1989), p. 335.

84. Ibid., p. 373.

85. See Evans, Gareth, “Australian Foreign Policy: Priorities in a Changing World,” Australian Outlook: The Australian Journal of International Affairs 43 (August 1989), p. 13. See also Evans, Gareth, Australia's Regional Security (Canberra: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 1989), in which similar themes are confirmed.

86. Hamilton, Colleen and Whalley, John, “Coalitions in the Uruguay Round,” Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv 125 (Winter 1989). pp. 547–62.

87. For a discussion of the NIEO, see Rothstein, R. L., “Regime Creation by a Coalition of the Weak: Lessons from the NIEO and the Integrated Program for Commodities,” International Studies Quarterly 28 (Summer 1984), pp. 307–28.

88. See, for example, Jervis, Robert, Lebow, Richard Ned, and Stein, Janice Gross, Psychology and Deterrence (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985); and Jervis, Robert, The Meaning of Nuclear Revolution: Statecraft and the Prospect of Armageddon (Ithaca. N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989), especially chap. 5.

89. Keohane, , After Hegemony, pp. 244–46.

90. Young, Oran. “Political Leadership and Regime Formation: The Emergence of Institutions in International Society.” paper presented at a meeting of the International Studies Association, 10–14 04 1990. Washington, D.C.

91. See Hoffmann, Stanley. “What Should We Do in the World?” The Atlantic, 10 1989. p. 91. For a fuller exposition of this line of argument, see Higgott, Richard, “Towards a Non-Hegemonic International Political Economy,” in Murphy, Craig and Tooze, Roger, eds., The New International Political Economy (Boulder. Colo.: Lynne Reinner, forthcoming).

92. See Pratt, Cranford, ed., Middle-Power Internationalism: The North–South Dimension (Montreal: McGill University Press, 1990); Hampson, Fen Osler, “Climate Change: Building Coalitions of the Like-Minded,” International Journal 45 (Winter 1990), pp. 3674; and Bernard Wood, “Towards North-South Middle Power Coalitions,” in Pratt, Middle-Power Internationalism.

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