A survey of the literature on trade has revealed that it is becoming more difficult for elected officials resist protectionist pressures by citing constraints imposed by global pacts and supply free trade. There are two main reasons why. First, the literature on the design and politics of international institutions increasingly emphasizes how they build in slack that can undermine government claims of being constrained. Second, as states accede to an ever-growing list of overlapping international institutions, there is often a choice among, or uncertainty over, which institution’s obligations apply. Where this situation creates more policy space for government officials, it also will make it more difficult for them to credibly tie their hands and supply free trade in the face of interest group pressures for protection. Currently, the literature is somewhat at a turning point. Questions about the design and politics of international institutions, and the growing thickness of the market for them, are very much in vogue. These questions have profound implications for the supply of free trade. The credibility of elected officials’ hands-tying strategies is likely undermined where institutions anticipate the political reactions of their members, or where members can shop for different rules on trade to accommodate domestic preferences. The irony is that the proliferation of international institutions may lead scholars of trade policy to renew their focus on domestic interest groups.
Marc L. Busch and Edward D. Mansfield
The terms “region,” “regionalism,” and “regional integration” are often used synonymously in the academe. For instance, one author refers to Pacific Asian regionalization, North American regionalism and regional integration in Europe. Some authors view “regionalism” as the analytically broader term. Since the mid-1990s, there has been a more general movement toward “economic regionalism or regional trade agreements,” building on the concept of “new regionalism” and coinciding with the notion of “preferential trading arrangements.” This implies only those integration schemes which have an economic purpose, are in geographical proximity to each other, and consist of more than two states qualify for inclusion. There are five stages in the deepening of formal regional integration: free trade area, customs union, common market, economic union, and political union. From the late-1950s to the late 1990s, two approaches have attempted to explain the process (rather than the origins) of regionalism: neofunctionalism and liberal intergovernmentalism. Scholars argue whether there is a causal connection between regional integration and Global Political Economy (GPE), or whether they are simply correlated. Three themes from the literature on regionalism and GPE can be identified. First, the numerous studies since the late 1990s that have taken a decidedly comparative approach, irrespective of their level of analysis, agree that there is some “logic” to regional arrangements. Second, confusion occurs with domestic causality. Third, large membership has become a concern for the European Union.
Peter M. Haas
The literature on the political economy of the global environment is a hybrid of political economy, international relations (IR), and international environmental politics, looking at the formal and informal institutional factors which give rise to unsustainable habits. The physical environment has long been the subject of social scientists, who recognized that patterns of social activity might contribute to environmental degradation. One of the most common formulations of environmental issues as a collective action is through the metaphor of the Tragedy of Commons, which argues that overpopulation worldwide would undoubtedly contribute to extensive resource depletion. Following the formulation of the core properties of environmental issues as lying at the interstices of a variety of human activities, implications followed for how to conduct research on international environmental politics and policy. Realist and neorealist traditions in international relations stress the seminal role of power and national leadership in addressing environmental problems. Neoliberal institutionalists look at the role of formal institutional properties in influencing states’ willingness to address transboundary and global environmental threats. On the other hand, the constructivist movement in international relations focuses on the role of new ecological doctrines in how states choose to address their environmental problems, and to act collectively. Ultimately, the major policy debates over the years have addressed the political economy of private investment in environmentally oriented activities, sustainable development doctrines, free trade and the environment, environmental security, and studies of compliance, implementation, and effectiveness.