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Critical Mass Agreements: The Proven Template for Trade Liberalization in the WTO


The expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) in 2015 was the most successful attempt at trade liberalization under the auspices of the WTO since its inception in 1995. Its success makes it a template for other trade liberalization efforts. In this article, I explain how the ITA expansion came to pass and explicate the contours of the template it provides. I highlight four factors that were crucial to the ITA expansion's successful completion: a narrower scope without a single undertaking approach, a negotiating group that contained many but not all WTO members, a focus on tariffs rather than non-tariff barriers, and avoiding a nationalistic opposition. I conclude by discussing what lessons these factors and the ITA expansion suggest for other ongoing trade negotiations such as the Environmental Goods Agreements (EGA).

Corresponding author
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I would like to thank the Robert Schuman Centre and the European University Institute for their hospitality and support of my research. I would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers at World Trade Review for their many helpful comments and suggestions.

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World Trade Review
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