Global RivalriesStandards Wars and the Transnational Cotton Trade

Global RivalriesStandards Wars and the Transnational Cotton Trade

Amy A. Quark

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780226050539

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Global Rivalries explores rule-making in an era of increasing geopolitical uncertainty. Western firms and states have long dictated the formal terms of trade in the global economy. But with a shift to an Asia-centered economy, how do powerful Western actors construct governance institutions that are enforceable? Under what conditions are the emerging non-Western corporate elite and their state allies, as well as more marginalized firms and states, able to recast the rules to better serve their interests? In this book, Amy A. Quark addresses these questions through a study of negotiations over key institutions - quality standards and dispute settlement arrangements - that undergird the transnational cotton trade. The book traces the ascendance of China as a powerful player challenging the trade dominance of the U.S. state and transnational merchants. It analyses the strategies these rivals used in a struggle over who would set the rules of the game, as well as the implications for more marginalized actors in the cotton trade, such as small cotton producers in West Africa. Quark argues that hegemonic rivalries shape strategies to change institutions. In the cotton trade, actors’ positions within broader conflicts over the organization of the global capitalist system shaped preferences, bargaining power, and thus strategies in institutional struggles. This conflict-driven process created institutional change that was incremental as the path dependencies of existing rules posed significant obstacles to the Chinese state’s bid for institutional power. Nonetheless, the resulting institutions were hybrid in nature as the perceived threat of Chinese power compelled dominant Western actors to retool governance institutions.