Diplomacy and the Settlement of International Disputes
41 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 2, 2017
International legal frameworks exist to formalize interactions between countries, supposedly muting the need for behind-the-scenes bargaining in the event of disagreements. Yet diplomacy persists, and sometimes escalates, even after countries invoke dispute settlement mechanisms. What is the purpose and impact of diplomatic engagement in the presence of international law? To date, the answer to this question has been elusive due to a shortage of both granular, systematic data on diplomatic interaction and precise theories about its effects. This paper redresses these deficits by exploring the relationship between diplomacy and the settlement of international trade disputes prior to a final legal judgment. We argue that even when states resort to international legal mechanisms, they still engage in a considerable amount of diplomacy outside of those processes. But the effects of diplomatic engagement vary depending on pre-existing state affinity. Specifically, we argue that diplomatic interactions help states that have dissimilar policy preferences resolve their disputes before they reach a formal ruling. By contrast, diplomacy has minimal impact on dispute settlement in relationships between countries with higher affinity. To establish this argument, we focus on the diplomatic interactions behind litigation involving the United States (US) at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
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