Middle powers in the global economy: British influence at the Kennedy Trade Round

Date of Completion

January 1997


Political Science, General|Political Science, International Law and Relations




Middle powers can and do have influence in the international political economy. In particular they can influence the policies of great powers. This dissertation provides a case study of middle power influence in the 1960s, using the example of British influence on the United States at the Kennedy Trade Round.^ Using recently declassified British and American government documents this dissertation finds significant British influence on U.S. trade policy and negotiating tactics from the opening phase of the Kennedy Round in November 1962 to the completion in May 1967--influence that contributed to the successful outcome of the Kennedy Round. Britain influenced the United States when Britain was in economic decline and no longer one of the three big powers, and the United States was a hegemonic power. Britain exerted more influence on the United States than previous accounts the Kennedy Round acknowledge and this evidence challenges the assumptions of realist theories of the international political economy.^ The extent of British influence varied. It was stronger in the opening phases than in later stages, and more telling on agricultural policy than industrial. This study identifies the necessary conditions for British influence to explain this variance. State-level factors such as individual knowledge and bureaucratic expertise rather than system-level factors such as the distribution of material power capabilities account for British influence. The results suggest that the conditions necessary for middle power influence are more consistent with liberal theories than realist theories.^ Further, the substantial evidence of British influence on the U.S. found in this study contributes to the scholarship on the Anglo-American relationship and provides the basis for further debate on the question of whether the so called "special relationship" was, to use Dean Acheson's phrase, "played out" in the 1960s. The findings confirm those from other recent archival research which suggest that most earlier studies had overstated the atrophy of Anglo-American relations in this period. ^