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Baptists and Bootleggers in Trade Politics: How Treaty Recognition Makes Side Agreements Credible 

Studies show that liberalizing governments include social and environmental clauses in trade agreements to gain pro-trade support from activists. However, these studies do not address how the government makes issue linkage credible to activists, who understand that the government has weak incentives to enforce such linkages once the agreement is ratified. How do liberalizing governments make issue linkage credible to activists despite the commitment problem? Focusing on U.S. government decisions regarding environmental clauses in trade agreements, I argue that a liberalizing government uses international treaties to mitigate activists' fears of defection. By recognizing environmental international organizations' authority in trade agreements, the government can mitigate activists' fear of defection and increase their support for trade agreements. Using original data, I find that the government recognized environmental treaties with more ties to U.S.-based activists in designing environmental clauses in trade agreements. Based on a comparative case study, I also show that activists with ties to seven recognized treaties supported issue linkage whereas those without ties to the treaties joined forces with anti-trade groups. Click here for the draft

Who Demands Treaty Recognition and Why?: Analyzing Issue Linkage Proposals in the European Parliament 

Why do some legislators demand treaty recognition in designing issue linkages in Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs)? This article examines the conditions under which Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) demand delegation to IOs in designing non-trade clauses in PTAs. Drawing from the European Parliament Archives, I analyze amendments proposed by MEPs in the Committee on International Trade from 2004 to 2014. I argue that MEPs tend to demand treaty recognition to increase the support for their amendments from peer legislators in the committee. Empirically, I show that MEPs are more likely to demand recognition under two circumstances: if they are ideologically farther from the median of the committee, and if their constituencies’ preferences deviate from their party lines. By contrast, I find that ideology per se does not affect delegation proposals: right-leaning MEPs are equally likely to demand treaty recognition as left-leaning MEPs in the committee. However, right-leaning MEPs frame recognition in protectionist terms, whereas left-leaning MEPs tend to highlight the altruistic aspect of treaty recognition. While existing studies view recognition as a strategy to enhance the credibility of international agreements between negotiating parties, this article shows that it can be a political strategy to justify unpopular positions within legislatures.

Silent Networks in the Electoral Spotlight: Activist Coalitions and the Diffusion of Global Corporate Norms

Existing IR theories hold that policymakers discipline a rule breaker to the extent that the breach affects their own political survival. However, governments in the Global North have increasingly begun to condemn their home-grown multinational companies

for breaking global norms on climate and human rights in the Global South, even when domestic audiences pay little attention to such issues during elections. This paper advances a bureaucratic contact theory to explain government enforcement decisions on low-salience compliance issues. I argue that as unpopular issues receive less attention from elected officials during election periods, career bureaucrats play a crucial role in norm enforcement at these times. Faced with high demand for compliance-related tasks during election periods, bureaucrats are incentivized to cherry-pick promising cases. I argue that complainants can elicit a favorable enforcement outcome during an election only when home country–based activists join forces with them and help cross-pressured bureaucrats screen promising cases. I find supporting evidence from the OECD Guidelines’ Specific Instance process. This article shows that in the Global North, the electoral spotlight can have distributional consequences for norm beneficiaries in the Global South, and that activists’ ties to home country bureaucrats play an essential role in norm diffusion. Click here to see the article

Does the U.S. Congress Respond to Public Opinion in Trade? (with Michael Pomirchy & Bryan Schonfeld)
Are U.S. legislators responsive to public opinion on trade? Despite the prevalence of preference-based approaches to international trade, not much work has directly assessed the relationship between constituency opinion and positioning by members of Congress on trade bills. We assess dynamic responsiveness (whether shifting constituency opinion on trade yields corresponding changes among legislators) by exploiting an original dataset on the positions of members of Congress on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at various points leading up to the November 1993 roll-call vote. We find no evidence of dynamic responsiveness to shifting constituency opinion on even a highly salient piece of trade legislation. We provide qualitative evidence that interest group influence may instead be the predominant source of shifting legislator positioning on trade. Click here to see the article


Environmental issue linkage as an electoral advantage: the case of NAFTA. Review of International Political Economy (2021): 1-28.

Why would some legislators alter their votes on trade agreements in return for environmental side agreements that may be hard to enforce? While numerous studies have examined the effects of side agreements, few have evaluated their impact on legislators’ positions on a trade agreement over time. This paper examines the effects of the environmental side deal attached to NAFTA, with novel time-series survey data that captures the evolution of House members’ positions on NAFTA during discussion and finalization of the environmental side of the free trade agreement. I find that pro-environmental legislators in safe districts tended to withdraw their support for NAFTA once the side deal was agreed upon, whereas those in competitive districts stood their ground and increased their support in the final stage of voting. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I find little evidence that the side deal assuaged legislators in import-competing districts. This article shows how the effectiveness of international institutions is moderated in important ways by electoral considerations. Click here to see the article


Experience, communication, and collective action: financial autonomy and capital market development in East Asia. New Political Economy (2022): 27-5, 731-753. with Yong Wook Lee  

From the creation of the eurozone to the African Financial Markets Initiative, the world has seen the emergence of regional financial institutions in recent decades. East Asia is no exception. ASEAN plus Three (China, Japan, and Korea) has institutionalised the Asian Bond Marked Initiative (ABMI) since 2003. What explains the development of the ABMI? We argue that East Asian states established it as an institutional mechanism for regional financial autonomy constrained by their dependence on Western financial market. In making this argument, we propose an experience-communication analytical framework to systematically investigate the formation of collective economic interests. We show that the analytical framework captures the timing and the content of the institutional evolution of the ABMI with greater precision. To demonstrate our claim, we attempt to make best use of both qualitative process tracing and quantitative collocational analysis for the validity and reliability of our claim. Particular attention is paid to analysing the politics of inclusion and exclusion in membership as ASEAN plus Three states shifted the forum for regional bond market cooperation from the APEC, of which the United States is a member, to the ABMI, which excludes the United States in pursuing regional financial autonomy. Click here to see the article


Does Attaching Environmental Issues to Trade Agreements Boost Support for Trade Liberalisation?
In this policy op-ed published by Bruegel, I argue that the omission of environmental issues in the new U.S.-E.U. trade talks may have negative effects on ratification of the new trade deal in the European Parliament. I analyze whether pro-climate individual Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) withheld their support for the streamlined trade talks. To control for their baseline attitudes on issue linkage, I include their stances on the TTIP, which had extensive mandates to negotiate provisions on climate change. All else equal, if an MEP is not supportive of a stronger climate policy, the MEP is predicted to support the trade talks without environmental mandates, with a likelihood of 83%. However, the predicted probability of approval drops to 40% if the MEP supports a stronger climate policy in line with the Paris Agreement. Click here to see the article


Political Institutions and the Credibility of Green Protectionism

Governments increasingly implement protectionist measures–import bans, labeling requirements, and subsidies–on environmental grounds. Despite the surge of green protectionism, little work has examined how governments choose green trade policies. This paper highlights the tradeoff between transparency (observability of environmental commitments) and exclusivity (targetable benefits for national producers) in protectionist measures. When civil societies are weak and the policy-making process is opaque, governments choose exclusionary yet transparent policies that outsiders easily observe (e.g., import bans, subsidies endorsed by MEA guidelines). In this way, a commitment to transparent and bright-line measures can lower the likelihood of litigations while protecting politically important national producers. Where civil societies are robust and the policy process is transparent, governments choose non-exclusionary and flexible measures at the expense of external transparency (e.g., assessment, labeling requirements). A commitment to flexible policies allows governments to gain support from broader groups (e.g., producers, consumers, and environmentalists). In a transparent political environment, they can still lower the likelihood of trade disputes as outsiders can observe how civil society actors engage in the policy process. Statistical analysis of WTO members’ environment-related notifications corroborates the theoretical conjecture.

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