New article by BIGSSS Postdoc Clara Weinhardt › view all


"Playing Different Games: Uncertain Rules in EU–West Africa Trade Negotiations"

BIGSSS Postdoc Clara Weinhard published a new article on why EU-Africa trade negotiations (initially) failed. Clara takes a new constructivist approach to conceptualizing misperceptions in international bargaining and investigates how uncertainty about the rules of the game prevents cooperation.

You can access the article through the International Studies Quarterly website.


The outcomes of international negotiations cannot be understood without considering how participants behave strategically. But how do “rules of the game” in negotiations—and the uncertainty that often surrounds them—shape this behavior? I examine the 2002–2007 period of the negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union and West Africa. I argue that both sides made misguided strategic choices. Their misperceptions of the rules operative in trade negotiations with a “development dimension” facilitated the emergence of an impasse during the 2002–2007 negotiating period of the EPA process. In order to explain why, we should conceive of bargaining processes as spaces defined by unstable and potentially contested rules. I offer three mechanisms —payoff disjuncture, choice-range disjuncture, and style disjuncture—that help account for how misperceptions of these socially constructed rules can prevent, or at least delay, cooperation. My approach complements rationalist theories that rely on the insights of game theory with a constructivist perspective that brings to light the socially constructed nature of negotiation processes.