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. 

Journal of Conflict Resolution 66(10). 2022.

Over the Shoulder Enforcement in European Regulatory Networks: 

The role of arbitrage mitigation 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 legal accountability environment might alter enforcement politics. In particular, we argue that arbitrage mitigation mechanisms – formal institutional procedures, which attempt to generate equivalent application of EU law for cross border regulatory concerns – offers 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 these mechanisms could 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 an important pathway towards leveling the enforcement playing field in regulatory networks. Substantively, the paper offers a more fine grained understanding of when and how European citizens’ civil liberties will be upheld.

Journal of European Public Policy. First view: June 2, 2022. 

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]

Political Science Research and Methods 11(1). November 7, 2022.

Working papers

Closing the Institutional Gap: Protecting Technology in Foreign Direct Investment

How does foreign direct investment (FDI) affect a state's domestic property protection regime and rule of law? Existing literature argues that foreign investors seek outside institutional guarantees to substitute for weak property protection in host countries. I argue that this external option is limited, especially for intangible 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.  

GWU-CIBER Best Paper on Emerging Markets Award, Finalist

Who Harmonizes?: Bilateral regimes and multilateral underpinnings 

Regulatory harmonization across countries is often motivated by multilateral and unilateral sources of pressure. Yet relatively few empirical studies have disentangled these concurrent dynamics and distinguished their regulatory effects. I posit that different channels for regulatory convergence can either compound or counteract the effects of one another. I use a newly collected measure of country compliance with the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS agreement) and interact it with measures of bilateral and plurilateral engagement on IP to test my hypotheses. I find that bilateral engagement by the United States Trade Representative is less likely to achieve regulatory changes in foreign countries after a given country complies with TRIPS requirements. My findings reveal that legitimacy of unilateral pressure can diminish after pressure from multilateral regimes is lifted, thereby shedding light on conditions that determine the policy space for bilateral engagement and unilateral demands.

ISA IPE Best Graduate Student Paper Award

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 functionally related issues (e.g. internet governance, intellectual property rights and data privacy) in relative isolation from one another. Integrating work on complex systems and historical institutionalism, we argue that such fragmented regime complexes may be the product of micro-level political contestation accumulating over time. The US and the EU used incremental change strategies – layering, drift, insulation, and shifting – to shape individual sub-systems 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 political intentions of powerful states to resolve distributional conflicts. Theoretically, we show how incremental change strategies, well understood in the domestic politics literature, can be used to understand global interactions as well.

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 Economic Statecraft: Explaining the limits of RMB internationalization

with Aditi Sahasrabuddhe and Scott Wingo 

The People's Bank of China (PBoC) has signed forty-one bilateral swap arrangements (BSAs) with a diverse set of partner economies since 2009. Despite China's increasing economic clout, monetary cooperation in China's regional orbit has been limited. Why is the reach of China's monetary ambitions limited in its own neighbourhood? We argue that the scope of China's swap network is constrained by security and geopolitical considerations by China and its partners. Our argument hinges on two dimensions of interest: whether a state is a US ally and its geographic proximity to China. We build our argument using qualitative evidence from elite interviews with current and former financial leaders from China's swap counterparties, and test our argument quantitatively using a cross-national panel of China's BSAs. We find that the likelihood of signing BSAs is influenced by states' security relations with both the US and China. In particular, US allies closer to China's borders are less likely to cooperate with China through BSAs. States in a territorial dispute with China are also less likely to sign a BSA with China. Counterintuitively, our findings suggest that the growth of China's military power and of its ability to back its economic interests seem to constrain its choice of BSA partners in regions closer to China given existing US military alliances, and emerging conflict from China’s territorial pursuits in its immediate neighborhood. 

Under review

Work in progress

"Domestic Innovation Support and MNC Activities", with Jian Xu

"Soft power and FDI: The Impact of China’s Digital Silk Road in an Era of Great Power Competition", with Rachel Hulvey and Jeremy Springman

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