Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Backdoor Bargaining: How the European Union Navigates the Food Aid Regime Complex

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Abstract:  Scholars have long observed that states play off overlapping international institutions against one another in an effort to advance their policy objectives. This article identifies a strategy utilized by the EU in response to regime complexity that I term “backdoor bargaining.” Unlike forum-shopping, regime-shifting, and competitive-regime creation strategies, which states use to move multilateral negotiations to an institution that they expect will produce a more favorable outcome, backdoor bargaining involves a state using negotiations within one institution to gain an advantage in negotiations taking place at another distinct institution in a regime complex. I demonstrate the plausibility of backdoor bargaining by showing that the EU used the renegotiation of the Food Aid Convention as a strategy to gain bargaining leverage in the agriculture negotiations at the World Trade Organization. The article also offers insights into the potential consequences of international regime complexity for the EU as a global actor and the coherence of its foreign policies.

Keywords:  European Union; Food Aid Convention; international negotiation; policy coherence; regime complexes; trade; World Trade Organization



© Matias E. Margulis. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.