U.S. Free Trade Agreements and Linkages

Vinod K. Aggarwal

International Negotiation, 2013

This article examines the driving factors that account for patterns of linkages to broader economic, labor, environmental, and security issues in U.S. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Rather than only emphasizing trade benefits or security considerations as in much recent work on FTAs, this analysis provides a richer empirical picture by focusing on the full universe of U.S. FTAs. It conceptually differentiates among different issues that might be linked to FTAs and categorizes different patterns of U.S. FTAs based on the key issues that drove negotiations. The article then examines these negotiations from a theoretical standpoint, focusing on three elements. First, it examines the degree to which linkages in the U.S. domestic policymaking process are top-down or bottom-up. Second, it considers linkages types in terms of the underlying basis for issue connections – either power or knowledge. Third, it more briefly examines the bargaining process. The conceptual and theoretical analysis is buttressed through an examination of various illustrative cases of U.S. FTA negotiations to demonstrate the utility of this approach to illuminate the variety of ‘linkage packages’ that have driven U.S. FTAs. We conclude with the broader implications of linkages politics in FTAs.

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