Middle Power Leadership and Coalition Building: The Cairns Group and the Uruguay Round

IR Working Paper 1990/1

Author/s (editor/s):

Andrew Fenton Cooper, Richard A. Higgott

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 1990/1

Andrew Fenton Cooper and Richard A. Higgott, ‘Middle Power Leadership and Coalition Building: The Cairns Group and the Uruguay Round’, IR Working Paper 1990/1, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, March 1990.

Perhaps the key debate in contemporary neorealist international political economy concerns the manner in which cooperation (following Robert Keohane) may or may not be secured in the global economic order ‘after hegemony’. A second broad question that exercises the scholar of international politics pertains to how weaker states attempt to influence stronger ones. One conflation of these two questions would cause scholars and practitioners alike to pay closer attention than in the past to coalitions of the weak as vehicles for cooperation and regime building in the global political economy.

This paper is a case study of one recent exercise in coalition building as an attempt to foster cooperation in a non-hegemonic 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 atypical single issue driven, transregional coalition. Led by Australia and Canada the Group’s actions represent and interesting exercise in ‘middle powers’ politics in a global economic order increasingly characterised by a more fragmented and complex process of decision-making and in which major actors need coaxing towards processes of cooperative economic management.

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