The CMEA Working Group on Phosphorites and the Search for a Collective Solution to the Problems of Scarce Raw Materials by Socialist Countries in the 1970s
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The CMEA Working Group on Phosphorites and the Search for a Collective Solution to the Problems of Scarce Raw Materials by Socialist Countries in the 1970s
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Alexey Safronov 
Affiliation: Institute of World History RAS
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow

The article examines the nature of interaction between the CMEA countries and the reasons for the low efficiency of cooperation through the CMEA on the example of many years of attempts to expand the import of phosphorites from developing countries. Based on the newly introduced archival materials of the working group on phosphorites, the article traces the prerequisites for its emergence, as well as the directions and results of the group's work in the 1970s. CMEA countries ways of action in this working group can be classified into three models of behavior: collectivist, paternalistic and egoistic, of which the last one turned out to be the most successful. In accordance with the “prisoner's dilemma” in the absence of punishments for opportunistic behavior, such strategy is rational. Polish delegation proposed to create a specialized international foreign trade society. However, the traditional CMEA format of multilateral approvals was in favor, which meant a sharp decrease in the likelihood of success of cooperative undertakings. The approval process was divided into several independent events (collection of product requirements, commitments for the supply of equipment and financing, preparation by the host country of a feasibility study (FS) for a facility and its approval by a developing country, obtaining contracts and distribution of subcontracts), for each of which required separate approval, which could be revised in the future. This created a high degree of uncertainty, which exceeded the collective interest of the participating countries and pushed them onto the path of self-sufficiency in phosphorites outside the CMEA framework. The author concludes that the low efficiency of cooperation through the CMEA was predetermined in the institutional design of this organization: the non-binding nature of participation and the absence of sanctions against participants demonstrating opportunistic behavior.

CMEA, Eastern bloc, developing countries, Global south, foreign trade, phosphorites, cooperation, prisoner's dilemma
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