That's the title of a short essay of mine in the Virginia Journal of International Law's online edition. Here's the main proposal:
... I thus propose an approach that I call "unilateral reciprocal binding trade liberalization." The basic idea is that unilateral liberalization by one member would lead to reciprocal liberalization from other members. The initial liberalization is undertaken unilaterally, and would then be part of the country's binding free trade promises. Other countries would then be required to reciprocate with new free trade commitments of their own. In other words, WTO Members would agree to cut their tariffs and other designated trade restrictions whenever another Member makes unilateral cuts.
I will briefly sketch out the contours of this approach here, but clearly further development is required if this proposal were to be put into practice. In order to administer this system, a neutral review mechanism, along the lines of the WTO's Trade Policy Review Mechanism, would be set up to evaluate the extent of the unilateral cuts and quantify the matching cuts that would be required in response. This mechanism would review existing protection and government support, in order to determine the corresponding liberalization to be offered in response to the initial liberalization. The mechanism would be overseen by a group of outside (i.e., non-governmental) experts.
In terms of the specific responding cuts to be made, only those who benefit from the unilateral cuts would be required to make their own cuts. When a government makes its initial unilateral cuts, it could request which cuts it would like other governments to make in response. Ultimately, however, the corresponding liberalization is each government’s choice. Its decision would be made in conjunction with the neutral oversight mechanism.
"Unilateral reciprocal binding trade liberalization" is an unwieldy term, I know. Feel free to suggest alternatives!
More generally, I don't expect governments to adopt this approach any time soon, or ever for that matter. But the current "bargaining for concessions" approach bothers me, and I'd love to find some way to change that mindset. I thought this might help.