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11 Apr 2013    Working Papers
Spilker, Gabriele


The Impact of Preferencial Trade Agreements on Governmental Repression Revisited

Gabriele Spilker and Tobial Böhmelt, ETH Zürich. A version of this manuscript has been presented to the 5th Annual Conference of the Political Economy of International Organizations, January 26-27, 2012 Vilanova University, Philadelphia, PA.



Previous research suggests that most treaties are ineffective in ensuring countries' compliance with human rights standards. In contrast, preferential trade agreements (PTAs) comprised of ‘hard law’ can withhold economic benefits and, thus, can have a real potential to substantially reduce human rights violations. The following article questions this presumption as existent work on the effects of PTAs on human rights standards neglects a selection process underlying the implementation of these treaties. That is, countries being aware of the ‘shadow of the future’ already take into account what may happen at the succeeding enforcement stage when establishing a particular PTA . This implies that states agree on ‘hard’ human rights standards in PTAs only if they have a general propensity to abide by human rights in the first place. For testing the empirical implications of their argument, the authors collected new data on human rights compliance rates and PTAs in 1976/77 - 2009, and employ genetic matching techniques. The results show that PTAs are unlikely to affect human rights compliance when controlling for the selection problem. Furthermore, we show that countries’ ratification of human rights treaties seems to be a simple attempt to achieve a good reputation, while post-ratification compliance is hardly given afterwards.

The Impact of Preferencial Trade Agreements on Governmental Repression Revisited