Bilateral Negotiation with Specific Reciprocity

… a core term used in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Schertzer, McDougall, and Skogstad (reference below) describe bilateral negotiation with specific reciprocity as one of the three approaches to intergovernmental relations.

They summarize their framework of approaches (p. 3) as:

Intergovernmental Approach
Distinguishing features (Norms, Institutions, Outputs)
Multilateral Collaboration High level of FPT engagement based on equality of orders and norms of co-ownership of policy field through strong FPT institutions.

Outputs show diffuse reciprocity.

Bilateral Negotiation Federal-single province dynamic, with joint ownership of a policy field based on equality of orders, but with recognition of the unique federal-provincial relationship.

Outputs show specific reciprocity.

Unilateral Action Strong sense that a government can legitimately act on its own in a policy area, even if it impacts another government without consultation.

Outputs show particular interests.

Schertzer, McDougall, and Skogstad describe (p. 4) bilateral negotiation with specific reciprocity approach as follows:

“Under the bilateralism model, the norms and principles of interaction may still contain a measure of equality between the actors, but they reflect the particularistic nature of the specific relationship between the federal and provincial governments involved. The actual processes and institutions of relations in the bilateral model facilitate government-to-government negotiation and cooperation. Their outputs, often bilateral agreements, thus tend to focus on the particularities of this relationship, while seeking to realize an immediate equivalency of interests on a quid-pro-quo basis (Schertzer 2015; Ruggie 1993: 11; Keohane, 1985). This focus on specific reciprocity can facilitate more regionally tailored, or particularistic, goals that can result in a highly decentralized and asymmetrical set of outcomes. The archetypal example is the broad relationship between the Government of Canada and Quebec, which tends to run parallel to more multilateral relations across a host of policy areas.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Federalism (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Schertzer, R. McDougall, A. and Skogstad, G. (2016), “Collaboration and Unilateralism: Explaining recent dynamics of intergovernmental relations in Canada,” Working Paper, Presented at Canadian Political Science Association Annual Conference, 2016. References in the cited paragraph are:

Schertzer, Robert. 2015. “Intergovernmental Relations in Canada’s Immigration System: From bilateralism towards multilateral collaboration.” Canadian Journal of Political Science. 48(2):383-412.

Ruggie, John. 1993. “Multilateralism: The Anatomy of an Institution.” In Multilateralism Matters: The Theory and Praxis of an Institutional Form, ed. John Ruggie New York: Columbia University Press.

Keohane, Robert. 1985. “Reciprocity in International Relations.” International Organization. 49(1): 1-27.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 6 September 2016.