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18 Feb 2021    Journal Articles
Elsig, Manfred , Wüthrich, Simon


Challenged in Geneva: WTO Litigation Experience and the Design of Preferential Trade Agreements

Journal Article by Manfred Elsig and Simon Wüthrich in "Business and Politics (B&P)", published online by Cambridge University Press (2021), pp. 1-20.

Abstract

What explains the design of international institutions? Existing research has largely neglected how experience in cooperation in one set of international institutions impacts on design choices made by states in other globally-oriented institutions. We contribute to this evolving debate by analyzing spillovers in experience in international trade. We argue that countries' track record of interaction in multilateral trade disputes affects the design of their preferential trade agreements (PTAs). If a country participates in a complaint against a prospective PTA partner at the World Trade Organization (WTO), the challenge in Geneva alerts the defendant's import-competing industries with respect to potential challenges under the planned PTA. As a result, these industries exert pressure on their government to preserve leeway under the future treaty, leading to increased flexibility and a lower level of enforcement in the PTA. We find support for our hypotheses in an empirical analysis of 347 PTAs concluded post 1990.

Keywords

International Trade; World Trade Organization (WTO); Preferential Trade Agreements; Litigation; Institutional Design

Challenged in Geneva: WTO Litigation Experience and the Design of Preferential Trade Agreements