Broken Promises: The Relative Effectiveness of Federal and Unitary States in Implementing International Trade Agreements

Ryan Dukeman

Ryan Dukeman1
1Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA


Federalism’s effect on state behavior in international politics has been understudied, particularly concerning implementation of international agreements. Building on existing qualitative
studies of federalism and implementation, this paper presents the first systemic quantitative analysis of the relative effectiveness of federal and unitary states in implementing international trade agreements. I use the number of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes launched against a country and the length of those disputes as testable implications, including subsetting by tariff/non-tariff-barrier disputes. The data cover disputes from 1975 – 2004 for non-least-developed member states (1995-2005 for length of disputes). Controlling for several economic and political variables, I find federalism a significant predictor of being targeted in disputes, at least for certain rich democracies. I also offer tentative, preliminary evidence that disputes with federal defendants last several months longer than those with unitary defendants, especially for non-tariff-barrier disputes. These findings hold key policy implications for trade and state design.


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