Book Project on Issue Linkage: Trade and the Environment

Side Agreements and the Political Logic of Hybrid Coalitions in Trade Liberalization

The U.S. and the E.U. have increasingly added side agreements on environmental and social standards to trade agreements. How exactly do these side agreements work? I study three aspects of side agreements: a) What makes side agreements credible to weak domestic groups?; b) How do legislators use side agreements during trade negotiations?; c) Do side agreements transform the nature of trade coalitions? 

Baptists and Bootleggers in Trade Politics: How Treaty Recognition Makes Side Agreements Credible (Working Paper)

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

Environmental Issue Linkage as an Electoral Advantage: The Case of NAFTA (Forthcoming in Review of International Political Economy)

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 for the online preview

Who Demands Treaty Recognition and Why?: Analyzing Issue Linkage Proposals in the European Parliament (Early Stage Working Paper)

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. Click here for the draft

Policy: 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

The Enforcement of Issue Linkage (Early Stage Working Paper)

This article examines when and how the U.S. government enforces environmental provisions in its trade agreements. I theorize that the government faces a dilemma in enforcing side clauses in trade agreements: pro-trade groups demand weak enforcement whereas environmental groups demand strong enforcement. Faced with the dilemma, I argue that the government's enforcement decisions follow ratification business cycles. Based on a case study of U.S. enforcement decisions from 2009 to 2016 and its trade agreement with Peru, I demonstrate that the government strategically implement strong enforcement measures prior to ratification of new trade agreements to weaken environmentalists' opposition to those agreements. In contrast, the government tends to adopt softer enforcement tools (i.e. technical assistance) when there are not any impending needs to expand pro-trade coalitions. Click here for the draft

Other Papers on Trade, Finance and FDI

Does the U.S. Congress Respond to Public Opinion in Trade? (Working Paper 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 for the draft

Experience, Communication, and Collective Action: Financial Autonomy and Capital Market Development in East Asia (Conditionally accepted for publication in New Political Economy, 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. How can we explain this new institutional landscape? In this paper, we propose an experience-communication analytical framework to systematically investigate the formation of collective economic interests that are then used to drive the establishment of regional institutions. We show that regional states define their economic interests on the basis of their interpretation of specific critical events, such as a financial crisis, and their relationships with significant others during and after this event. To demonstrate our claim, we examine the institutional development of the Asian Bond Market Initiative in East Asia over the last fifteen years. 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 (China, Japan, and Korea) states shifted the forum for regional bond market cooperation from APEC, of which the United States is a member, to ASEAN+3, which excludes the United States in pursuing regional financial autonomy.

Insider Bias in the Spotlight: Activist Coalitions and Diffusion of Global Corporate Norms. (Working Paper)
How does public scrutiny affect the diffusion of global corporate norms with regard to the environment and human rights? In contrast to the conventional wisdom that public scrutiny (e.g., peer monitoring in international organizations (IOs) and domestic scrutiny during election campaigns) promotes the diffusion of environmental or human rights norms, this article shows that government decisions with regard to norm compliance are largely shaped by norm beneficiaries’ coalition strategies. Focusing on three types of coalitions (i.e., home-based, host-based, and third party coalitions), this article shows that home-based coalitions enjoy a unique advantage when pressuring governments to condemn multinational corporations for norm violations, while both outsider coalitions controlled by host country organizations and prominent transnational experts in third countries experience a systematic disadvantage, especially when governments are in the spotlight. By analyzing the outcomes of the OECD Guidelines’Specific Instance process, this article shows that public scrutiny can have distributional consequences for norm beneficiaries and that activists’ ties to home governments play an essential role in norm diffusion. Click here for the draft

When the Truth Hurts: The Conditional Effects of Information Clauses in BITs and FDI Inflows. (Data Project)
With a focus on twenty-eight Asia Pacific countries from 1982 to 2013, I constructed a data set recording how governments in those states designed information-related clauses in Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs). Based on the data, I study whether high information clauses indeed increase investment inflows more than low information clauses. Preliminary findings indicate that information clauses tend to decrease FDI inflows for governments with low levels of financial openness. Click here for data description

Issue Linkage in Times of Crisis: COVID-19 and Climate Change. (Early-stage working paper with Casey Kearney)
Is issue linkage an effective strategy in times of crisis? Focusing on the linkage of COVID-19 and climate change, we examine why certain politicians tend to capitalize on the crisis to promote climate issues. We argue that politicians considering the use of issue linkage in times of crisis must balance a trade-off between “never letting a crisis go to waste” whilst not appearing too opportunistic in times of crisis. Politicians also face a shorter-term trade-off of how to deploy limited budgetary resources in response to the crisis. Focusing on these trade-offs, we develop three hypotheses: a) Crisispresents an opportunity to promote climate issues, b) Crisis constrains the resources for issue linkage, c) Election proximity during the crisis strengthens the incentive to link climate issues to COVID. Click here for the presentation