Firm Interests: How Governments Shape Business Lobbying on Global Trade
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.
208 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8014-4609-2.
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"I love the case studies in this book! On the basis of seventy interviews with key political and business leaders from more than a half-dozen nations, Cornelia Woll reconstructs the international negotiations that led to the liberalization of the global telecommunications and airline markets. She gets into the heads of the relevant actors, using interview data to confirm her intuitions about their motivations and perceived interests."
"Firm Interests is theoretically ambitious and empirically rich. Political economists typically take the notion of an actor's interests as something to 'do the explaining with' rather than 'something to be explained.' Yet essentially similar material environments seem to engender great variation in the interests real actors hold. Rather than ignore this inconvenient truth, Cornelia Woll confronts it head-on in a major contribution to constructivist scholarship in political economy. Firm Interests shows how actors as diverse as telecommunications firms and airlines can hold interests that cannot be assumed from their asset-baskets or sectoral positions. Rather, firms actively construct ideas about what their interests should be given their interaction with other agents. Firm Interests puts the study of what actors want on much firmer ground."
Firms are central to trade policy-making. Some analysts even suggest that they dictate policy on the basis of their material interests. Cornelia Woll counters these assumptions, arguing that firms do not always know what they want. To be sure, firms lobby hard to attain a desired policy once they have defined their goals. Yet material factors are insufficient to account for these preferences. The ways in which firms are embedded in political settings are much more decisive. Woll demonstrates her case by analyzing the surprising evolution of support from large firms for liberalization in telecommunications and international air transport in the United States and Europe. Within less than a decade, former monopolies with important home markets abandoned their earlier calls for subsidies and protectionism and joined competitive multinationals in the demand for global markets. By comparing the complex evolution of firm preferences across sectors and countries, Woll shows that firms may influence policy outcomes, but policies and politics in turn influence business demands. This is particularly true in the European Union, where the constraints of multilevel decision-making encourage firms to pay lip service to liberalization if they want to maintain good working relations with supranational officials. In the United States, firms adjust their sectoral demands to fit the government's agenda. In both contexts, the interaction between government and firm representatives affects not only the strategy but also the content of business lobbying on global trade.