Selecting Partner Countries for Preferential Trade Agreements: Experimental Evidence from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Vietnam
International Studies Quarterly. DOI: 10.1093/isq/sqv024
Posted: 4 Dec 2017 Last revised: 12 Dec 2017
Date Written: February 18, 2016
Preferential trade agreements (PTAs) constitute the most rapidly growing form of trade liberalization in the global economy. In contrast to, for example, the World Trade Organization, PTAs allow for discrimination among potential partner countries. This helps explain their proliferation. But it also raises an important question: which countries are preferred partners for PTAs? On the presumption that public opinion matters—both normatively and analytically—for trade policy, we study what types of countries citizens prefer for PTAs. We focus on developing countries, as they both play an increasingly important role in the expanding global network of PTAs and also remain understudied in the literature on international cooperation and trade policy. To account for the multidimensionality of PTA partner country choice, we develop and test a theoretical framework through conjoint experiments embedded in national surveys in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Vietnam. The results show that, despite starkly divergent national contexts, citizens in all three countries opt for similar partner countries. Respondents prefer culturally similar countries, democracies, and countries that maintain high environmental and labor standards. Somewhat surprisingly, economic size and geographic distance prove less important in the choice of which countries to support as PTA partners.
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