International Relations

Domestic Institutional Design and the National Interest in Trade Negotiations



How do different domestic institutional settings affect the formation of the national interest in trade negotiations? While current evidence suggests that institutions influence such a process even when societal groups dominate policymaking and international factors limit state choices, it remains unclear to what extent the domestic institutional design shape bureaucrats’ perceptions on both internal and foreign constraints. Building upon Brazil’s and India’s cases in World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Round between 2003 and 2008, I address that question through process-tracing with the purpose of theory-building. I focus the analysis on the nodal bureaucracy, understood as the institution at the forefront of international bargaining. I argue that if such a bureaucracy is responsible for diplomacy in general, foreign factors prevail in decision-making. In turn, if the nodal bureaucracy is devoted only to trade-related issues, domestic economic factors dominate policymaking. I reach those conclusions through a paired-comparison between Brazil and India.


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