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Job Market Paper

"Choosing not to conclude: mapping Canadian and American efforts to negotiate preferential trade agreements (1980-2020)"
Presentations: IPES 2021

How often do attempts to negotiate preferential trade agreements (PTAs) collapse? What explains these bargaining failures, and how has tolerance for negotiation failure changed over time? Using process tracing and archival research methods, I construct an original dataset of all negotiations towards a PTA initiated by the United States and Canada between 1980 and 2020. While both countries have collectively signed and ratified 35 PTAs since 1980, they have also attempted to negotiate another 31 separate agreements that ultimately yielded no treaty of any kind. Surprisingly, negotiation failure happens often: since 1980, 46\% of initiated PTA negotiations by Canada and the United States have failed; however, these negotiation failures are disproportionately concentrated after the mid-2000s. Logistic regression and survival analysis demonstrate a correlation between the likelihood of negotiation failure and the cumulative number of ratified PTAs. A case study of the attempted Canada-India PTA demonstrates that the policy priorities of specific leaders, and the cumulative number of successful agreements making the overall costs of no agreement lower over time, matter a great deal. As PTAs become more ambitious, the prerogatives of specific leaders in developed democracies may easily frustrate and prolong efforts to liberalize international trade. This data also invites future research to revisit the causes and factors determining which countries sign PTAs as existing research has largely ignored the negotiation process.

Book Project

"The Politics of Constructive Ambiguity in International Trade Law"
Dissertation committee: Helen V. Milner (Chair), Gary J. Bass, Krzysztof J. Pelc (McGill University), and James R. Vreeland
Presentations: ISA 2021, IPES 2021

What explains variation in the specificity of treaty language across international agreements? How do ambiguous treaty terms affect references to and compliance with international law? In my dissertation, I  argue that the negotiating practice of “constructive ambiguity” – the deliberate use of ambiguous language to address a sensitive issue area in a negotiation – is widespread in the design of international law, but varies significantly over time and issue area. I claim that constructive ambiguity is more likely to be used in agreements when the preferences of negotiating parties are highly polarized, but the prospects of future negotiations and the cost of negotiations failing are high. Yet constructive ambiguity limits the capacity of states to ensure compliance with treaty terms precisely because it leaves commitments open-ended. As a result, policymakers delegate defining treaty terms to the future, and often to an actor beyond their direct control. I conclude that when additional rounds of negotiation are not possible, vague treaty terms invite the creation of legal precedents by international courts, or subsequent negotiations, to bring specific meaning to treaty commitments.

To motivate my theoretical account of constructive ambiguity, I first rely on a theory-building case study of the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué. To evaluate this argument I then engage in a multi-method study, evaluating ambiguous language across draft treaties with archival evidence to process trace the negotiations practices of key actors in the development of the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the 1994 Marrakesh Agreement founding the World Trade Organization (WTO). Using both regression analysis and case studies, I then show how this ambiguity has contributed to increased reliance on the GATT/WTO dispute settlement mechanism, and in turn has exacerbated the current crisis within the institution’s appellate body. Paired with this has been an increased trend in negotiation attempts towards new PTAs failing.

Working Papers

"When 'Home' Becomes the 'Field': Ethical Considerations in Digital and Remote Fieldwork"
(with Marnie Howlett, University of Oxford)
Under Review

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the unpredictability and instability of fieldwork as a method for data collection. In addition to political dynamism, the last two years have been marked with significant social and economic disruptions at both domestic and global levels. While it is necessary to consider how a dynamic field site intersects with our ethical obligations (Knott, 2019), the COVID-19 pandemic has instigated additional unexpected ethical questions as both our field sites and our ‘homes’ have evolved since March 2020, especially in light of international travel bans and social distancing measures. In this article, we thus stress the need for scholars to reconsider how we conceive of our ethical obligations in situations where we have conducted research without ever physically accessing our field sites or interacted physically in person with our research participants. We urge researchers to re-evaluate their ethical responsibilities and obligations around transparency and replicability in the dissemination and publication of findings when engaging in digital fieldwork. We contend that these considerations also apply when returning to or visiting the field during and/or following the pandemic, especially when researchers have predominantly relied on digital and remote methods for data collection since March 2020.

"Silence is Golden? Revisiting Third Party Participation in World Trade Organization Litigation"
Presentations: ISA 2020 (canceled due to COVID-19), PEIO 2019, APSA 2020

While the dispute settlement mechanism (DSM) is one of the primary benefits of World Trade Organization (WTO) membership, developing countries rarely utilize this system as complainants. Scholars have highlighted the alternative accessibility of third party status for member states with low levels of legal and bureaucratic capacity to engage in litigation. Yet contrary to these theories, 22% of all third parties in disputes with a ruling are ”silent”, in that such countries do not submit any oral or written testimony. What explains these ”silent” third parties? I argue that a state’s level of engagement in the WTO DSM is better predicted by whether a state possesses a preference to influence the rules and norms of an international regime, but this preference is only meaningful when states have the bureaucratic capacity to act on it. Using large-N statistical analyses and a case study of DS267, United States – Upland Cotton, I show that when states have limited capacity to navigate the friction of operating bureaucracies at home and in Geneva, their predicted probability of submitting testimony as a third party reduces by as much as 34%. This paper highlights the importance of engaging with the details of state engagement with IOs.

"What can we learn from failed economic negotiations?: lessons from BITs and PTAs"

(with Haillie Na-Kyung Lee, Seoul National University)

Presentations: APSA 2020, PIPCOSS 2020, VIPES 2020, PEIO 2021

How often do attempts to negotiate bilateral investment treaties (BITs) or preferential trade agreements (PTAs) fail? What explains these negotiation failures, and what do policymakers take away from these negotiation efforts? Using process tracing and archival research methods, we construct an original dataset of failed BIT and PTA negotiations by the United States and Canada between 1980 and 2020. We find that negotiation failure happens often: 33% of initiated BIT negotiations fail, and 46% of initiated PTA negotiations fail. Evaluating this data, we provide preliminary evidence that the primary determinants of negotiating failure include electoral turnover in at least one of the negotiating parties and the scope of negotiations. We conclude with a discussion of future data collection efforts and a research design for further quantitative work on this topic. In an era of conflictual diplomatic relations, this article highlights the prevalence of failed negotiations towards trade and investment agreements and the importance of evaluating bargaining failure in the study of international political economy (IPE).

"Building Blocks as Stumbling Blocks: The Geopolitics of Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs)"

(with Haillie Na-Kyung Lee, Seoul National University and Shea Minter, Georgetown University)

Presentations: MPSA 2021

Existing research on the design of international economic agreements has mainly focused on preferential trade agreements (PTAs) and bilateral investment treaties (BITs), omitting any discussion of Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs). In this paper, we introduce and analyze a novel dataset of TIFAs signed between 1975 and 2020. We find these agreements are 4 pages on average and are signed most frequently by the United States to establish normalized meetings between parties with the goal of signing a BIT or PTA in the future. However, in almost all cases TIFAs have not led to the signing of additional deeper agreements. While the US has signed 54 TIFAs, only one of them (the 2002 US-Bahrain TIFA) has led to a successful PTA negotiation. This observation directly goes against the building block hypothesis that TIFAs lead to BITs, which lead to PTAs (Tobin & Busch, 2010). If TIFAs are not effective tools of economic integration, why are they ever signed? We hypothesize that TIFAs serve a greater geopolitical purpose than economic purpose, and do not universally adhere to the standard building blocks hypothesis. Instead, they often act as stumbling blocks: when TIFAs fail to lead to BITs and PTAs, but negotiators expect them to, diplomatic relations suffer and collapse. We find these expectations not only damage bilateral economic relations, but also general diplomatic relations.

"Loss or Benefit? Framing the Effects of Free Trade in Surveys"

Presentations: Princeton Pizza & Politics Seminar (Spring, 2019)

How do framing effects in canonical surveys impact measures of individual-level protectionism? Scholars have traditionally measured support for free trade with individual-level responses to the American National Election Survey (ANES), the International Social Survey Program/General Social Survey (ISSP/GSS), the World Values Survey (WVS), the National Annenberg Election Study (NAES) or the Pew Global Attitudes Project. However, each survey uses different “frames” to explain the potential impact of free trade policy to respondents. I argue that surveys positing larger potential losses from free trade are more likely to induce protectionism in respondents. In an original Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) survey experiment, I show that respondents answering the NAES question were most likely to support free trade, followed by those answering the ANES question, then the WVS question, and lastly the ISSP/GSS question. I also show that susceptibility to negative framing effects is highest amongst least educated respondents. Most importantly, in replicating key studies of support for free trade, I show that models in support of the Heckscher-Ohlin and Ricardo-Viner model can depend heavily on the question used to measure individual-level support for free trade. By evaluating the validity of existing survey questions related to free trade, this paper demonstrates the fundamental importance of question selection and measurement strategy in survey experiments when studying individual-level preferences

Research in Progress

"Are Tariffs Sexist? The Politics of Gender and Trade Protection" (with Krzysztof J. Pelc, McGill University)


Does gender affect policy responses to political demands? In this article, we ask this question in the context of trade protection: are female-dominated industries offered different rates of protection than male-dominated sectors? Using data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Bank's recent Gender Disaggregated Labor Database (GDLD), we present a first sense of the trade protection offered to female vs. male-dominated industries for 185 countries between 1991 and 2020. We show that while female-dominated sectors like textiles have traditionally been associated with higher rates of protection, they have also seen disproportional liberalization in recent decades, while male-dominated sectors have been offered longer adjustment periods. The discrepancy is especially pronounced in developed countries. Drawing on existing work, we also find that legislatures with greater female representation are associated with higher rates of protection for female-dominated industries, in a way that speaks to the political origins of the discrepancy. Our findings hold implications for one of the most enduring puzzles in the study of trade preferences, which has consistently found more protectionist attitudes among women. One possible explanation is that in recent decades, women have simply had to adjust to greater changes in trade competition, and policymakers have been less willing to offer female-dominated industries protection during hard times.   

Contribution to a special issue on "'Yes, And:' Graduate Students Conducting Qualitative Methods During/After a Pandemic'' with Marnie Howlett (Oxford University).

Roundtable discussion at APSA 2021, paper in development

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