Diplomacy and the Settlement of International Trade Disputes
Forthcoming, Journal of Conflict Resolution
37 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 12, 2019
How do countries settle disputes in the shadow of the law? Even in the presence of legalized dispute settlement, countries still rely on diplomatic channels to resolve conflicts. But it can be difficult to assess diplomacy's impact on dispute resolution, because those channels tend to be opaque. We present both an original theory of the impact of diplomacy on dispute resolution as well as a novel measure of diplomacy. If countries with close or, conversely, distant relationships use legal channels for dispute resolution, diplomacy will have little impact on dispute settlement; resorting to legal recourse among friends or adversaries likely means that the dispute is intractable. However, diplomacy can increase the chances of settlement between countries with moderate levels of affinity. We test this argument using a protocol-based proxy for diplomatic interactions -- gifts given at the occasion of meetings between diplomatic counterparts -- that would otherwise be difficult to observe. Using the case of the United States and its disputes in the World Trade Organization, we find support for our argument. This suggests that even when countries resort to legalized methods of dispute settlement, bilateral dealmaking still plays an important role.
Keywords: WTO, trade disputes, diplomacy
JEL Classification: F10, F13, F53, F55
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation