Text-as-Data Analysis of Preferential Trade Agreements: Mapping the PTA Landscape

Ottawa Faculty of Law Working Paper No. 2017-32

UNCTAD Research Paper No. 5, UNCTAD/SER.RP/2017/5

29 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2017 Last revised: 5 Aug 2017

See all articles by Wolfgang Alschner

Wolfgang Alschner

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Julia Seiermann

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Students; United Nations - Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

Dmitriy Skougarevskiy

European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP)

Date Written: July 10, 2017

Abstract

Preferential trade agreements (PTAs) form an intricate web that connects countries across the globe. In this article, we introduce a PTA text corpus and research tools for its fine-grained, automated analysis. Recent computational advances allow for efficient and effective content analysis by treating text as data. We digitize PTA texts and use textual similarity tools to assess PTA design patterns on the global, national, and chapter level. Our descriptive analysis reveals, inter alia, that PTAs are more heterogeneous as a group than, for instance, bilateral investment agreements, but that they converge in regional or inter-regional clusters of similarly worded agreements. Following our descriptive account, we provide three concrete, interdisciplinary examples of how text-as-data analysis can advance the study of trade economics, politics, and law. In trade economics, similarity measures can provide more detailed representations of PTA design differences. These allow researchers to capture more meaningful variation when studying the economic impact of PTAs. In trade politics, scholars can use treaty similarity to trace design diffusion more accurately and test competing explanations for treaty design choices. Finally, in trade law, similarity measures offer new insights into the processes of normative convergence between legal regimes such as trade and investment law.

Keywords: preferential trade agreements, free trade agreements, text-as-data, similarity, computational analysis of law, trade law, WTO

Suggested Citation

Alschner, Wolfgang and Seiermann, Julia and Skougarevskiy, Dmitriy, Text-as-Data Analysis of Preferential Trade Agreements: Mapping the PTA Landscape (July 10, 2017). Ottawa Faculty of Law Working Paper No. 2017-32; UNCTAD Research Paper No. 5, UNCTAD/SER.RP/2017/5 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2999800 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2999800

Wolfgang Alschner (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
Canada

Julia Seiermann

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Students ( email )

Geneva
Switzerland

United Nations - Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

Palais des Nations
Geneva, 1211
Switzerland

Dmitriy Skougarevskiy

European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP) ( email )

3 Gagarinskaya Street
St. Petersburg, 191187
Russia

HOME PAGE: http://eu.spb.ru

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