In global environmental cooperation, legally binding agreements remain a customary way for states to set common goals and standards. This article analyzes the Minamata Convention on Mercury by addressing three questions: First, how did linkages to earlier agreements shape the negotiations? Second, what were the main legal and political issues during the negotiations? Third, what are the major issues moving forward with treaty implementation and mercury abatement? The analysis shows that the decision to start treaty negotiations was influenced by related policy developments on hazardous chemicals as well as differences in national interests. Five sets of issues dominated the negotiations: 1) supply and trade, 2) products and processes, 3) emissions and releases, 4) artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and 5) resources and compliance. The article concludes that future mercury abatement hinges on the parties' ability to move beyond the initial mandates, as the convention may affect decisions by a wide range of public, private, and civil society actors.

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Author notes

* I would like to thank three anonymous reviewers, as well as Kristin Sippl, Noelle Selin, and Aarti Gupta, for insightful comments on earlier versions of the text.