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Emerging Powers, Domestic Politics, and WTO Dispute Settlement Reform

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As the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) gains relevance as a rule-maker in trade governance, understanding the reform negotiations addressing its legal framework becomes increasingly important. This article examines how domestic ideas and interests affect the reform positions of two of the DSB’s most active users, emerging power states Brazil and India. Regarding domestic interests, I draw on the domestic politics and two-level games literatures to argue that the amount and favorability of domestic sectors’ experience with the DSB affects their incentives to lobby during the reform negotiations. Interestingly, this results in countries pursuing liberal interests within negotiations, despite having conflicting domestic interest preferences overall. Regarding domestic ideas, I find evidence that Brazilian and Indian politicians feel accountable to voters in the negotiations, contradicting claims to the contrary in the literature. This highlights the need for more research illustrating links between voters and officials in this context.

Affiliations: 1: Political Science Department, Technische Universität Dresden 01062 Dresden Germany

1 Laura C. Mahrenbach is a post-doctoral fellow at the TU-Dresden. She is the author of The Trade Policy of Emerging Powers (Palgrave Macmillan 2013) and holds a Ph.D. in social sciences from the Ruhr-University of Bochum. Her research interests include emerging powers, their motivations and behavior in global governance, as well as the domestic determinants of foreign policy decision-making in established and emerging states more generally.

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