Book Project. Issue Linkage and the Political Logic of Hybrid Coalitions:
the Linking of Trade Liberalization and Environmental Protection  

The U.S. and the E.U. have increasingly attached environmental protection clauses to Preferential Trade Agreements. Developing countries have accepted the issue linkage, expecting the linkage to facilitate the ratification of PTAs in the developed democracies. Scholarly understanding of issue linkage has focused on the thus described logrolling among state actors. This project scrutinizes the unexamined assumption on the effectiveness of domestic logrolling between activists and pro-trade businesses in the U.S. Because activists' power is dependent on time-sensitive public attention, they find it risky to exchange favors with pro-trade groups with concentrated and time-patient interests. I ask why some activists support trade deals in exchange for environmental protection clauses despite the inter-temporal commitment problem. This project shows how environmental IOs and green legislators in competitive electoral districts facilitate trade liberalization by brokering unlikely coalitions between activists and pro-trade groups.


Why do some activists support issue linkage despite the inter-temporal commitment problem? I argue that environmental IOs bridge the credibility gap: Activists with ties to IOs are better equipped to support linkage, because they can use the IOs to name-and-shame non-complying governments. Based on original data, I find that i) major NGOs with dense connections to IOs have consistently supported trade deals, and ii) the U.S. government lowers the credibility gap by delegating environmental provisions to environmental IOs, if the IOs have more ties with U.S.-based activists. 

Does the linkage of environmental issues increase support for trade deals from legislators with green groups? Existing studies on issue linkage argue that it does. I advance a modified view that considers the effectiveness of issue linkage as mediated by electoral competition. I argue that legislators trusted by green groups increase their support for the linkage, when electoral competition in their districts intensifies. Unlike those in safe districts, green legislators facing competitive elections are tempted to raise donations from pro-trade businesses without losing support from green voters, who tend to be anti-trade. Given their incentives to keep both green voters and pro-trade donations, some activists’ support of issue linkage can serve as moral cover for supporting trade deals in legislatures.

Do trade-environmental linkages improve the environment? I causally show that the U.S. is not likely to punish partner countries for their violations of environmental clauses using trade or aid measures. I argue that the U.S. government with a pro-trade bias has the incentive to enforce environmental provisions outside its domestic political arena to avoid blame from trade groups. I show that the Department of Commerce preemptively increased its financial contributions to the environmental IOs mentioned in the TPP to increase its influence within those IOs.  By deferring to environmental IOs for the enforcement of those provisions, the government can avoid using trade sanctions and mitigate the grievances of green groups. 

Legalization for Survival:
Bureaucrats in Left-leaning Governments and Third Party Participation in the WTO

What explains WTO member countries’ decisions to participate in trade disputes as third parties? Why do they use the low publicity and low cost mechanism? In this paper, I advance a view that considers third party participation as a policy instrument to enhance bureaucratic autonomy from protectionist-leaning elected officials. Pro-trade officials have the incentive to legalize trade matters and gain discretion from protectionist politicians by technicalizing the issue area. I analyze the frequency of individual members' third party participation and dispute initiation. I find that left-leaning governments are more likely to participate in disputes as third parties. But, they are not more likely to initiate trade disputes than right-leaning governments.

When the Truth Hurts: The Conditional Effects of Information Clauses in BITs on FDI Inflows

I investigate how Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) enhance international cooperation by generating information that may otherwise remain private to individual governments. 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 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.  

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 a 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.