A reader emails with this question:
Are there any studies on the advantage of being a “first mover” in trade negotiations, and whether that makes a difference? An example is the EU and GIs – does it benefit the EU to get out ahead and negotiate a series of free trade agreements that give broad protections to GIs (broader than what the TRIPS Agreement currently requires) before negotiating the issue with the United States?
There is a procedural and a substantive element of the question: procedurally, it is helpful for a government agency responsible for negotiating trade agreements to be able to establish the structure of a set of trade commitments, because when that agency presents the text for internal approval, the agency can always provide comfort that the language is the “standard” text that has been blessed in previous FTAs. That comes in part from getting out in front on an issue and establishing the “standard” text.
But substantively, does it really matter? If the US strongly objects to the EU position on GIs in a US-EU FTA negotiation, why would it matter if the EU had negotiated 10 FTAs previously that reflect the EU position?
Any thoughts from readers on this? I can see the point that establishing a particular provision as standard would help promote it, to some extent, in future agreements. But at the same time, it's hard to imagine that doing so would convince a major trading country to change its policy.