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The Domestic Politics of Institutional Design: Producer Preferences over Trade Agreement Rules

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What explains variation in the design of international institutions? Recent literature shows that providing members with opportunities to shirk their contractual obligations actually promotes agreement formation and durability. Yet, in spite of these benefits, institutions continue to exhibit wide variation in the “flexibility” of their rules. I show that, in the context of preferential trade agreements (PTAs), the benefits of permitting escape are enjoyed unevenly across the market. In particular, import‐competing industries gain from the protection that escape clauses provide while their export‐dependent counterparts bear the costs. This asymmetry creates domestic political competition over agreement design between the two traded sectors of the market. I explore this competition using new data on the design of 330 PTA agreements since 1960.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2012

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