Fear of Crowds in WTO Disputes: Why Don't More Countries Participate?

Journal of Politics 78 (1): 88-104, 2016

37 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2013 Last revised: 21 May 2016

See all articles by Leslie Johns

Leslie Johns

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science

Krzysztof Pelc

McGill University

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

The participation deficit in global governance is usually blamed on power politics; we argue it may actually reflect strategic behavior by excluded countries themselves. In the WTO, member-states affected by a trade dispute can join litigation as `third parties' to gain access to otherwise private negotiations. In spite of its considerable benefit and negligible cost, third party participation remains rare. Countries often stay out even when they have a material interest at stake. Why is this? We argue that because the presence of third parties decreases the odds of a settlement and increases the odds of litigation, strategic states may choose to stay out to avoid acting as involuntary spoilers. All states benefit from a swift resolution to trade disputes, so the benefit of participation decreases as more states join a case. We test our model by examining each country's decision to participate or not in every WTO dispute since 1995. The findings support our theory: states shy away from joining when it's too crowded.

Keywords: WTO, international organizations, participation, international political economy

JEL Classification: D72, D74, F10, K33

Suggested Citation

Johns, Leslie and Pelc, Krzysztof, Fear of Crowds in WTO Disputes: Why Don't More Countries Participate? (2016). Journal of Politics 78 (1): 88-104, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2292535 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2292535

Leslie Johns (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science ( email )

405 Hilgard Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1472
United States

Krzysztof Pelc

McGill University ( email )

855 Sherbrooke St. W
Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T7
Canada

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