Institutional Design, Information Transmission, and Public Opinion:

Making the Case for Trade

with Ryan Brutger

Domestic debates about trade have increased the salience of international economic cooperation among the public, raising the question of whether, and how, domestic support can be rallied in support of international trade agreements. We argue that institutional features of trade agreements provide important cues to domestic audiences that shape support, particularly the membership composition and voting rules for multilateral deals. We use two survey experiments to show that the US public is more supportive of trade when it is negotiated with like-minded countries. We also find that the voting rules shape support for trade agreements, but differently across partisan audiences. Republican voters strongly favor the home country having veto power, though this effect has diminished throughout President Trump's tenure, and Democrats prefer agreements with equal voting rules. These differences are largely driven by perceptions of the agreements benefit for the nation and the publics trust of the negotiators.

-- Revise and resubmit at Journal of Conflict Resolution

Closing the Institutional Gap: Protecting Technology in Foreign Direct Investment

How does foreign direct investment (FDI) affect a state's rule of law and domestic property protection regime? Existing literature argues that foreign investors seek outside institutional guarantees to substitute for weak domestic property protection in host countries. I argue that this external option is limited, especially for technology components of foreign direct investment. I theorize that multinational corporations (MNCs) can seek property protection through host country domestic institutions rather than bypassing them, even in countries with relatively weak rule of law. Using cross national data on research and development investments, I find that foreign technology investment flows positively affect domestic institutions for intellectual property protection, thereby contributing to better rule of law in host countries. Further, I theorize that MNCs employ political strategies that engage with both home and host governments to influence host country institutional development through a two-level bargaining process. I illustrate the logics of the two mechanisms through a case study of General Electric's expansion in China and data on the United State Trade Representative's annual watch list on intellectual property practices in foreign countries.

-- Job market paper

Stimulated Political Decisions: Local Leadership Turnover and Firm Subsidies in China

with Yue Hou

How do new politicians distribute government resources in regimes with no electoral considerations? We argue that when the payoffs are not immediately clear in a low information environment, politicians use heuristics to make decisions that minimize political risks. We propose that for new local politicians, firm ownership types serve as a useful source of informational shortcuts to evaluating political importance, and this decision making process benefits state-owned firms. Using firm-level subsidies data in China combined with leadership turnover data at the provincial level from 2007 to 2015, we find that new provincial governors, immediately after taking office, distribute a significantly smaller proportion of subsidies to private firms relative to state-owned enterprises. The effect gradually attenuates as new governors understand local conditions and establish connections with local private firms. This strategy also proves to be politically effective, with governors who adopt such a strategy more likely to be promoted at the end of their tenure. [SSRN]

-- Under review

Over the Shoulder Enforcement in European Regulatory Networks:

The role of consistency mechanisms in the General Data Protection Regulation

with Abe Newman


Across many substantive domains, the European Union relies on a system of regulatory network-based enforcement. National agencies working with their peers to carry out on-the-ground implementation of supranational law. Such networked-base enforcement raises a number of concerns including regulatory arbitrage, capture, and shirking. While research has started to examine how capacity building and learning may serve to counter some of these problems, we explore a different channel focused on the ways in which shifts in the accountability environment might alter enforcement politics. In particular, we argue that consistency mechanisms – institutional procedures, which attempt to generate equivalent application of EU law across member state regulatory bodies – offer horizontal checks that allow regulatory peers to monitor enforcement efforts within the network as well as vertical checks that allow civil society and the public to voice their concerns and mobilize for higher levels of enforcement. To demonstrate the validity of our argument, we examine the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and European privacy enforcement. Our evidence shows that consistency mechanisms can create new forms of accountability both within and outside of the regulatory network. Our study contributes to the understanding of enforcement and compliance in European regulatory networks and identifies accountability as a previously overlooked but important pathway towards harmonizing enforcement in transnational regulatory networks. Substantively, the paper offers a more fine grained understanding of when and how European citizens’ civil liberties will be upheld.

-- Revise and resubmit at the Journal of European Public Policy

The Global Information Regime Multiplex:

Distributional Conflict and the Politics of Separation Over Time

with Niccolò W. Bonifai, Abe Newman and Qi Zhang


The global information regime complex is marked by considerable fragmentation both substantively and institutionally. A wide array of transnational bodies, international organizations, and private actors regulate a range of information issues (e.g. internet governance, intellectual property rights and data privacy) in relative isolation from one another. In other words, this regime has failed to integrate like others have and instead consists of a multiplex, a set of governance institutions, rules and practices, touching on functionally related issues, which remain in relative institutional isolation from one another. In this paper, we introduce the concept and explain how the information regime has transformed from a hierarchical and undifferentiated regime complex into a multiplex, a particular type of regime complex presenting low levels of hierarchical authority and considerably high levels of institutional differentiation. Integrating work on complex systems and historical institutionalism, we argue that such systems are the product of micro-level political contestation accumulating over time. Powerful states used incremental change strategies – layering, drift, insulation, and shifting – to shape individual sub-components of the regime. When aggregated, these efforts have reconfigured the global information regime into a stable yet highly fragmented governance system. Our research brings together siloed conversations on information governance, demonstrating that these systems may not necessarily be a degenerate form of regime complex, but rather the result of micro-level intentions of powerful actors to resolve distributional conflicts and institutional barriers. Theoretically, we show how incremental change strategies, well understood in the domestic politics literature, can be used to understand global interactions as well.


-- Under review

US Corporations and Extraterritorial Intellectual Property Regulation

When and how do governments choose to pursue extraterritorial policies? I argue that government preferences for extraterritorial regulation come from domestic corporations that compete in global markets. I outline an argument where business groups strategically engage in informational lobbying to shape government policies and governments are most responsive to the groups' information provision when they receive consistent signals, and when they come from strategically important actors. I test the theory by examining public comments submitted to the Special 301 annual review of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection in the United States. I find that consistency of information provision across business interests – repeated mentions of specific countries that violate IPR standards – is associated with increased likelihood of being targeted by the US Trade Representative (USTR). The degree to which business group preferences are incorporated into USTR policy, as measured by textual similarity between public submissions and the USTR final report, is conditional on the economic and strategic importance of business groups to US innovation. The evidence also shows that counter-lobbying by foreigner governments does not decrease the likelihood of being targeted by the USTR.

Constrained monetary competition: Explaining the limits of RMB internationalization

with Scott Wingo


(updated abstract to be posted shortly)

Work in progress

"Public and elite opinion of co-governance with platform technology companies", with Abe Newman

"Who harmonizes: Unilateral and bilateral underpinnings of multilateral regimes"