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The Politics of Trade and Climate Change  

Daniel Yuichi Kono

Both trade and climate change policies affect the international competitiveness of carbon-intensive industries. This suggests that policy changes in one area may affect politics in the other. Does openness to international trade affect climate change politics? Do climate change policies affect the politics of trade? Does formally linking trade and climate policies via trade sanctions affect the prospects for cooperation in each domain? There are good theoretical reasons to believe that the answer to these questions is yes. Theoretically, each set of policies should affect the other, but these interactions could either encourage or discourage trade and climate cooperation. How trade and climate politics interact is thus an empirical question. Empirically, the overall picture is of a nascent but promising field of research. Extant studies provide indirect tests and suggestive evidence, but little in the way of firm conclusions. Only one point emerges clearly: progress in this area will require more and better data on national climate policies.


Labor and Trade Protection in Comparative Perspective  

Erica Owen and Rena Sung

Research on the domestic politics of trade typically begins with a theory about who benefits from trade and who is harmed by it. The actors—for instance, firms, workers, or industries—who benefit from trade are expected to support liberalization while those who are harmed are expected to oppose liberalization. For individuals, exposure to globalization through the labor market—including the type of job, firm, or industry—is likely to be an important determinant of individuals’ preferences over policies governing the global economy. To understand the domestic politics of trade with respect to labor, therefore, it is important to ask two key questions. First, what explains the preferences of workers? Broadly, scholars can be divided between those that argue different economic factors (i.e., labor market consequences) explain attitudes toward free trade and those who argue that noneconomic factors (e.g., values, information) are the main drivers of attitudes. Empirical tests of these theories rely on survey data. Second, how do trade pressures influence elections and when do workers’ interests influence policy outcomes? Research on mass politics shows that workers’ interests with respect to trade shape not only support for incumbents in elections but also whether elected officials support free trade. Domestic institutions also play an important role in this process, with research suggesting that democracies and left-leaning governments implement trade policies that are more favorable to workers. Yet trade in the 21st century looks very different from trade 30 years ago. It no longer involves only (or even primarily) the exchange of final goods but also trade in intermediate goods and services. Trade is also closely linked to the production strategies of multinational firms, including offshoring. These fundamental changes in the nature of global economic activity have important implications for the how the interests of workers relate to those of their employers, and by extension the politics of trade. As a result, scholars are increasingly incorporating new models of trade into analysis of politics at the individual and aggregate levels.


The Comparative and International Political Economy of Anti-Globalization Populism  

Robert J. Franzese

The basic economics of international trade imply that globalization will have driven in the developed democracies of the Western world an increasing divergence between the material advancement of human, physical, and financial capitalists—a minority of the population—and the material stagnation or even decline of labor—a majority. This article reviews that theory and the strong comparative-historical empirical record substantiating those effects, and explains how the rise of xenophobic, nationalistic, anti-elite populism has its complementary roots in these economic developments.


Fiscal Politics  

Mark Hallerberg

The topic of fiscal politics includes taxation and spending, budget balances and debt levels, and crises and the politics of austerity. The discussion often focuses on how some variable—such as the international environment, or political institutions—constrains “politics” in this realm. Almost omnipresent concerns about endogeneity run through this research. While this is a “big” policy area that deserves study, tracing causation is difficult.


Institutions and the Global Political Economy  

Lisa L. Martin

In a comparison of today’s global political economy with that of the last great era of globalization, the late nineteenth century, the most prominent distinction is be the high degree of institutionalization in today’s system. While the nineteenth-century system did have some important international institutions—in particular the gold standard and an emerging network of trade agreements—it had nothing like the scope and depth of today’s powerful international economic institutions. We cannot understand the functioning of today’s global political economy without understanding the sources and consequences of these institutions. Why were international organizations (IOs) such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) or International Monetary Fund (IMF) created? How have they gained so much influence? What difference do they make for the functioning of the global economy and the well-being of individuals around the world? In large part, understanding IOs requires a focus on the tension between the use of power, and rules that are intended to constrain the use of power. IOs are rules-based creatures. They create and embody rules for gaining membership, for how members should behave, for monitoring, for punishment if members renege on their commitments, etc. However, these rules-based bodies exist in the anarchical international system, in which there is no authority above states, and states continue to exercise power when it is in their self-interest to do so. While states create and join IOs in order to make behavior more rule-bound and predictable, the rules themselves reflect the global distribution of power at the time of their creation; and they only constrain to the extent that states find that the benefits of constraint exceed the costs of the loss of autonomy. The tension between rules and power shapes the ways in which international institutions function, and therefore the impact that they have on the global economy. For all their faults, international economic institutions have proven themselves to be an indispensable part of the modern global political economy, and their study represents an especially vibrant research agenda.


The Political Economy of Financial Markets  

Federico Maria Ferrara and Thomas Sattler

The relationship between politics and financial markets is central for many, if not most, political economy arguments. The existing literature focuses on the effect of domestic and international political interests, institutions, and policy decisions on returns and volatility in stock, bond, and foreign exchange markets. This research bears implications for three major debates in political science: the distributive effects of politics, globalization and state autonomy, and the political roots of economic credibility and its tensions with democratic accountability. While the study of politics and financial markets is complicated by several theoretical and empirical challenges, recent methodological innovations in political research provide a window of opportunity for the development of the field.


Labor and the Global Political Economy  

Layna Mosley

What does current scholarship suggest about the relationship between the rights of workers in the developing world and the global economy? Contemporary multinational production includes both direct ownership of manufacturing facilities abroad and arm’s length subcontracting and supply chain relationships. Thus far, political economists have paid greater attention to the former; there are various reasons to expect that multinational firms may have positive, rather than negative, effects on workers’ rights. For instance, some multinationals are interested in hiring at the top end of local labor markets, and high standards serve as a tool for recruitment and retention. Multinationals also could bring “best practices” from their home countries to their local hosts, and some face pressure from shareholders and consumers—given their visibility in their home locations—to act in “socially responsible” ways. Hence, while directly owned production does not automatically lead to the upgrading of labor standards, it can do so under some conditions. Supply chain production is likely more mixed in its consequences for workers. Such production involves arm’s length, subcontracted production, in which multiple potential suppliers typically compete to attract business from lead firms. Such production often includes more labor-intensive activities; minimizing costs (including labor costs) and lowering production times can be key to winning subcontracts. We may therefore expect that subcontracted production is associated with greater violations of labor rights. It is worth noting, however, that research regarding the consequences of supply chain production—and the conditions under which such production may lead to improvements for workers—is less advanced than scholarship related to foreign direct investment. The governance of labor rights in a supply chain framework is marked by several challenges. It is often difficult for lead firms, even those that wish to protect worker rights, to effectively monitor compliance in their subcontractor facilities. This becomes more difficult as the length and breadth of supply chains grow; private governance and corporate social responsibility have therefore not always lived up to their promise. Rather, achieving labor protections in a supply chain framework often requires both private and public sector efforts—that is, governments that are willing to privilege the rights of workers over the rights of local factory owners and governments that are willing to enact and implement legal protections of core labor rights. Such government actions, when coupled with private sector–based capacity building, codes of conduct, and regular monitoring, offer the most promise for protecting labor rights within global supply chains. Finally, governments of developed countries also may play a role, if they are willing to credibly link working conditions abroad with market access at home.


Comparative and International Political Economy and the Global Financial Crisis  

Alison Johnston

The 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and subsequent European Debt Crisis had wide-sweeping consequences for global economic and political stability. Yet while these twin crises have prompted soul searching within the economics profession, international political economy (IPE) has been relatively ineffective in accounting for variation in crisis exposure across the developed world. The GFC and European Debt Crisis present the opportunity to link IPE and comparative political economy (CPE) together in the study of international economic and financial turmoil. While the GFC was prompted by the inter-connectedness of global financial markets, its instigators were largely domestic in nature and were reflective of negative externalities that stemmed from unsustainable national policies, especially those related to financial regulation and household debt accumulation. Many in IPE take an “outward looking in” approach to the examination of international economic developments and domestic politics; analysis rests on how the former impacts the latter. The GFC and European Debt Crisis, however, demonstrate the importance of a (CPE-based) “inward looking out” approach, analyzing how unique policy and political features (and failures) of individual nation states can unleash economic and financial instability at the global level amidst deepened economic and financial integration. IPE not only needs to grant greater attention to variation in domestic politics and policies in a time of closely integrated financial markets, but also should acknowledge the impact of a wider array of actors beyond banks and financial institutions (specifically more domestically rooted actors like households) on cross-national variation in the consumption of foreign credit.


Mexico and the European Union  

Roberto Dominguez and Marlena Crandall

The EU–Mexico relationship is symbolic of how a determined commitment to cooperation can lead to enduring partnerships between disparate and geographically distant states. The EU and Mexico have gradually institutionalized several frameworks for cooperation through a series of internationally significant agreements. In spite of major asymmetries in their levels of political, social, and economic development, the EU and Mexico have continually formalized their commitment to cooperation: both parties signed the Economic Partnership, Political Coordination and Cooperation Agreement (GA) in 1997 (in force since 2000), the Strategic Partnership (SP) in 2008, and modernization of the GA in 2018. Although the EU and Mexico have had relations since the 1970s, the first two decades of the 21st century have witnessed an intense alignment of policy goals in a variety of economic, political, and social areas, leading to the acceleration of mutual commitments and cooperation between seemingly unlikely partners. The implementation of the 2000 GA has been successful on several fronts: trade expanded, trust grew, and the European investment flow to Mexico increased with few interruptions. Therefore, it was not a lack of success that motivated the GA modernization process, but external global transformations and a relationship that had outgrown its defining framework. External global transformations—such as the rapid technological revolution, the subtly shifting international balance of power, and the degradation of the neoliberal economic model—required a more responsive agreement with updated legal frameworks. Further, the limitations of the original GA with respect to trade and economic imperatives required the inclusion of several new articles to address the expanded digital and service-based economies. With respect to political coordination and cooperation, the revised GA incorporated more disciplines into the formal High-Level Dialogues, and addressed a broadened international agenda increasingly focused on regulation, sustainability, and environmental concerns. While the EU–Mexico relationship is characterized by an entrenched belief in institutionalized, regular, and productive cooperation mechanisms, both parties agreed to modernize the GA in the late 2010s. The decades-long commitment to this ethos, despite their highly disparate starting point, is poised to promote several more decades of cooperation with the conclusion of the modernized Agreement in 2018.


The European Union Financial Crisis: A Critical Analysis  

Caner Bakir, Mehmet Kerem Coban, and Sinan Akgunay

The Global Financial Crisis, which originated in the United States, developed into a sovereign debt crisis in Europe, particularly the Eurozone. The Eurozone crisis was driven mainly by divergence in macroeconomic structures, fiscal indiscipline, and financial integration with fragmented regulatory and supervisory governance arrangements. The crisis also exposed flaws in the institutional design of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The EMU lacked mechanisms of effective crisis prevention and management and fiscal coordination, had a centralized monetary policy despite divergence in the macroeconomic structure and institutional setting across member states, and adopted a “light touch” approach to financial regulation. In response, crisis-hit countries implemented structural reforms and public spending cuts. European Union (EU) leaders attempted to address these deficiencies with institutional reforms at the national and regional level. Policy responses and institutional reforms have led to populist backlash with declining trust in regional and domestic politics and organizations, with voters favoring more inward-looking, nationalist political parties. Within this context, the Eurozone and EU face further challenges to maintain macroeconomic and financial stability and to ensure intraregional policy coordination.


Financial Turbulence and Crisis  

Caner Bakir, Sinan Akgunay, and Mehmet Kerem Coban

Why do financial turbulence and crises occur? What are different types of financial crises? Why do different countries experience financial crises, while some are more resilient? These are intriguing questions that relate to financial turbulence and crisis. The financial system is inherently susceptible to turbulence and crises: The world has witnessed several rounds of financial turbulence since the early 2000s. The 2008 global financial crisis and the worldwide financial turbulence that took place following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are examples. Periods of financial turbulence relate to heightened uncertainty and volatility in financial markets, and some of those periods can trigger financial crises. It is puzzling that although some countries can weather financial turbulence without falling into a financial crisis, others do not. This was observed during the global financial crisis. For example, financial turbulence triggered a financial crisis in some of the liberal market economies such as the United States and the United Kingdom. In contrast, Australia and Canada remained relatively resistant to financial turbulence. The existing literature tends to justify how and why a period of financial turbulence resulted in a financial crisis by looking at individual structural-, institutional-, or actor-level factors. In addition to the independent (separate) effects of these three principal explanatory factors, there is a need for detecting and analyzing their individual; interactive; and/or cumulative structural, institutional, and agential explanatory factors at work. Thus, it is crucial to explore some of the interrelated dynamics informing agency behavior which generate socioeconomic outcomes. Specifically, we call for a rigorous and refined analysis of how and why complementarities and enabling conditions that stem from interactions between structural and institutional factors influence actors’ agency and socioeconomic/political outcomes.


Multilevel Governance as a Global Governance Challenge: Assumptions, Methods, Shortcomings, and Future Directions  

Joachim K. Rennstich

Multilevel governance (MLG) as a research approach has mostly been applied to explain governance issues surrounding the European Union or international organizations. As a general research framework in the area of international relations (IR) theory, however, MLG has widely been underutilized, despite the many advantages that the approach offers in the empirical investigation of an increasingly complex international or global system. There are key concepts, assumptions, and definitions of MLG that focus separately on levels and governance as key elements of the approach and its interdisciplinary lineage. Some contested IR concepts include sovereignty, the nation-state, the international system, anarchy, agency, and levels of analysis. These IR concepts benefit from the application of an MLG framework by enabling the use of an interdisciplinary and multimethodological, yet systematically comprehensive, approach—which allows for nuanced use of these concepts. Other areas that benefit from IR methodologies applied in MLG research are methodological toolkits with a special focus on the areas of global governance, security studies, and international political economy.


International Political Economy and the Environment  

Gabriele Spilker, Vally Koubi, and Thomas Bernauer

How does liberalization of trade and investment (i.e., economic globalization) as well as membership in international organizations (i.e., political globalization) affect the natural environment? Does economic and/or political globalization lead to ecological improvement or deterioration? This article reviews the existing literature on international political economy (IPE) and the environment in view of these and related questions. While globalization has various dimensions—economic, social, and political—IPE focuses mainly on the economic dimension when analyzing the effect of globalization on the environment. In particular, IPE puts most emphasis on the environmental implications of trade in goods and services as well as foreign direct investment (FDI). Even though both trade and investment are thought to have a substantial impact on the natural environment, the existing literature demonstrates that the effects of economic globalization on the environment are neither theoretically nor empirically one-dimensional. This means that existing research does not allow for a clear-cut overall assessment in terms of whether globalization leads to an improvement or deterioration of the environment. This is the case because the impact of economic globalization on the environment materializes via different mechanisms, some of which are supposedly good for the environment, and some of which are bad. On the one hand, economic globalization may improve environmental quality via its positive effect on economic growth, since trade and FDI facilitate specialization among countries according to their comparative advantage and the transfer of resources across countries. On the other hand, relevant economic theory gives little reason to believe that free trade and FDI will influence all countries in the same way. Instead, when considering the relationship between economic globalization and the environment, it is important to consider the interactions between scale, composition, and technique effects created by different national characteristics and trade and investment opportunities. In particular, the scale effect of openness to trade and capital mobility increases environmental degradation through more intensive production. The technique effect predicts a positive effect of trade and FDI on the environment through the use of cleaner techniques of production. And the change in the sectoral composition of a country as a consequence of trade and FDI, the composition effect, could positively or negatively affect the environment of a country (e.g., a change from agriculture to industry may lead to higher energy consumption and air pollution while a change from industry or agriculture to service is expected to decrease environmental degradation). Consequently, the overall effect of trade and FDI on environmental quality can be positive, negative, or nonexistent strongly depending on the specific situation of the country under investigation. Furthermore, both theory and empirical research highlight the potential for government policy and environmental regulations to affect the relationship between trade/FDI and the environment. On the one hand, increased competition between economic actors (usually companies) due to increased market openness (globalization) might cause a race to the bottom or at least regulatory chill in formal and informal environmental standards as well as pollution havens attracting foreign direct investment. The reason is that countries might weaken (or at least not increase) their environmental policies in order to protect industries from international competition or attract foreign firms and FDI motivated by the expectation of lower costs of environmental protection. Hence the (theoretical) expectation here is that developed countries will refrain from adopting more stringent environmental regulations and might even reduce existing standards due to competition with countries that have laxer environmental regulation. And less-developed countries will adopt lax environmental standards to attract FDI flowing into pollution-intensive sectors and export the respective goods to jurisdictions with higher environmental standards. In contrast, the Porter hypothesis states that a tightening of environmental regulations may stimulate technological innovation and thus help improve economic competitiveness. In addition, trade openness may induce an international ratcheting up of environmental standards (trading up) as higher environmental standards of richer and greener countries spread—via trade and investment relationships—to countries starting out with lower environmental standards. Furthermore, multinational corporations engaging in FDI and applying universal environmental standards throughout their operations tend to transfer greener technology and management practices to host countries, thus promoting the upgrade of local environmental standards and improving the environmental quality in those countries (the so-called pollution halo effect). Echoing the many theoretical pathways through which globalization can affect the natural environment, empirical studies estimating the impact of trade and FDI on environmental standards and environmental quality deliver quite heterogeneous results. In particular, the literature points to various factors mediating the effect of trade and FDI on the environment, such as differences in technology between industrial and developing countries, stringency of environmental regulations, property rights and political institutions, corruption levels as well as the pollution intensity of multinationals. More recently, IPE scholars have started to study the political dimensions of globalization and how they are related to environmental protection efforts. Memberships in international organizations are at the center of this research and recent studies analyze, for example, how they may affect the quality of the environment. Other studies focus more on specific organizations, such as the World Trade Organization, and, for instance, evaluate whether in trade disputes over environmental standards economic or environmental concerns prevail. Finally, a new strand of the IPE and environment literature deals with the micro level and studies how citizens evaluate economic openness in light of potential environmental concerns.


Financial Globalization and Domestic Policy Autonomy in Latin America  

Giselle Datz

Despite theoretical assumptions about the potential for financial liberalization in Latin America to foster economic growth, empirical developments revealed a different story. With financial liberalization came greater macroeconomic instability, exposing countries to financial crises even when domestic economic fundamentals were mostly in order. At the policy front, capital account liberalization posed crucial challenges to macroeconomic governance. Indeed, international political economy literature on financial globalization has highlighted that developing countries’ governments who chose to implement policies that contradicted financial markets’ expectations could be “disciplined” or “punished” by the threat of capital outflows. Yet, capital flows to emerging economies are not determined solely by domestic (push) factors. Even in the most extreme case of noncompliance with investors’ (creditors’) preferences—i.e., sovereign default—evidence shows that market re-access and the cost of new debt are a function of credit cycles rather than solely determined by investors’ decisions to “punish” defaulters. In addition, to the extent that the “market” can indeed be considered as a single analytical category, industry-specific incentives shape portfolio investors’ bets. Caveats also apply to how market reforms differed in nature and degree, even in Latin American countries subjected to similar external pressures. The same is true for policy responses to the 2008 financial crisis. These dynamics add necessary nuance to broad depictions of financial liberalization as a deterministic process unequivocally constraining domestic policy autonomy in predictable ways.


The BRICS Countries and the European Union  

Bas Hooijmaaijers and Stephan Keukeleire

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) have, since the beginning of the 21st century, gained greater influence in global political and economic affairs and, since 2006, also steadily developed and increased their political dialogue and cooperation. South Africa joining the BRICS political grouping in 2011 was matched by a strengthening of the BRICS dialogue. This was reflected in the broadening range of issues covered, the increasing level of specificity of the BRICS joint declarations and cooperation, and the institutionalization of BRICS cooperation in various policy fields, including the creation of the New Development Bank (NDB). Notwithstanding the increased interaction between the BRICS states on the various political, economic, and diplomatic levels, the countries differ considerably in their political, economic, military, and demographic weight and interests and in their regional and global aspirations. China particularly stands out among the BRICS due to its political and economic weight. There are sufficient reasons to question the significance and impact of the BRICS format. Still, the BRICS countries have found each other in their commitment to counter the “unjust” Western-dominated multilateral world in which they are generally underrepresented. The EU did not develop a “BRICS policy” as such, which is understandable given the major differences between the BRICS countries and the ambiguous nature of the BRICS format. To deal with the various emerging powers and complement its predominantly regional partnerships, the EU instead institutionalized and deepened the political and economic bilateral relations with each of the BRICS countries, including through the objective of establishing a bilateral “strategic partnership” with each of these countries. However, the analysis of the EU’s relationship with the BRICS countries indicates that the label “strategic partnerships” mainly served as a rhetorical façade which belied that the EU failed to turn these relationships into real strategic partnerships and to behave strategically toward the BRICS countries. Another challenge for the EU appears when analyzing the BRICS within the broader context of various emerging power constellations and multilateral frameworks, including variations of the BRICS format (such as BRICS Plus, BASIC, and IBSA), multilateral frameworks with one or more BRICS countries at their center (such as the SCO, EAEU, and BRI), and regional forums launched by China. Taken together, they point to an increasingly dense set of partially overlapping formal and informal networks on all political, diplomatic, and administrative levels, covering an ever-wider scope of policy areas and providing opportunities for debate, consultation, and coordination. Whereas most of these forums are in and of themselves not very influential, taken together they have an impact on the EU and its traditional view on multilateralism in several ways. Seen from this perspective, the BRICS and other multilateral forums pose major challenges for both European diplomats and European scholars. They will have to make considerable efforts to understand and engage with these various forums, which are manifestations of an increasingly influential and powerful non-Western world wherein the role of Europe is much more limited.


What Do We Know About Global Financial Crises? Putting IPE and Economics in Conversation  

Michael J. Lee

Since the 1970s, financial crises have been a consistent feature of the international economy, warranting study by economists and political scientists alike. Economists have made great strides in their understanding of the dynamics of crises, with two potentially overlapping stories rising to the fore. Global crises appear to occur highly amid global imbalances—when some countries run large current account deficits and others, large surpluses. A second story emphasizes credit booms—financial institutions greatly extend access to credit, potentially leading to bubbles and subsequent crashes. Global imbalances are, in part, the product of politically contested processes. Imbalances would be impossible if states did not choose to liberalize (or not to liberalize) their capital accounts. Global political structures—whether international institutions seeking to govern financial flows, or hierarchies reflecting an economic power structure among states—also influence the ability of the global system to resolve global imbalances. Indeed, economists themselves are increasingly finding evidence that the international economy is not a flat system, but a network where some states play larger roles than others. Credit booms, too, and the regulatory structures that produce them, result from active choices by states. The expansion of the financial sector since the 1970s, however, took place amid a crucible of fire. Financial deregulation was the product of interest group knife-fights, states’ vying for position or adapting to technological change, and policy entrepreneurs’ seeking to enact their ideas. The IPE (international political economy) literature, too, must pay attention to post-2008 developments in economic thought. As financial integration pushes countries to adopt the monetary policies of the money center, the much-discussed monetary trilemma increasingly resembles a dilemma. Whereas economists once thought of expanded access to credit as “financial development,” they increasingly lament the preponderance of “financialized” economies. While the experimentalist turn in political science heralded a great search for cute natural experiments, economists are increasingly turning to the distant past to understand phenomena that have not been seen for some time. Political scientists might benefit from returning to the same grand theory questions, this time armed with more rigorous empirical techniques, and extensive data collected by economic historians.


Japan and the European Union  

Hitoshi Suzuki, Yu Suzuki, and Yoshimi Igawa

Japan and the European Union have historically developed relations, from trade conflicts to mutual cooperation between global actors. Japan’s prewar attitude and postwar rapid reconstruction caused misunderstandings and frictions, but these were gradually overcome thanks to the efforts made by Japan, the European Commission and member state governments. After the Cold War ended, policy fields of cooperation expanded from “mutual” market liberalization to foreign direct investments, aid, security, and environment. Japan and the EU jointly aided the newly liberalized countries in Central Eastern Europe, while the EU sought to strengthen its relations with countries in the Asia-Pacific. The Japan–EU Economic Partnership Agreement and the Strategic Partnership Agreement of 2018 were signed on the 50th anniversary of the customs union. The Agreements are jointly aimed by both parties to foster global free trade and shared values. For the first time in postwar history, Japan and the EU had reached an agreement before achieving one with the United States. Japan–EU relations are the strongest they have been since 1959 when the Japanese Mission to the European Communities and the European Commission Delegation to Japan were established. But the security threats in the Pacific indicate that bilateral relations between Japan and member states—the United Kingdom and France at the forefront—are still in play. The impact of Brexit, estimated to be felt more on the Japanese side, is also an issue requiring close study.


Climate Change Politics in Latin America and the Caribbean  

Matías Franchini

What is the role of the Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) countries in the global governance of climate change? Are they contributing to the intensification of the climate crisis or mitigating it? To answer these questions, we must examine these countries’ participation in international climate negotiations, the path of their domestic climate policies, and the trajectory of their greenhouse gas emissions. The LAC region is a moderate conservative actor in climate governance because it is not a major emitter (8% of the world total) and its average level of per capita emissions is slightly lower than the world’s average. However, the diverse climate policy experiences in the LAC region have not been able to significantly reduce emissions or change the path of development toward a low emission future. In the international realm, the region has failed to meaningfully cooperate in the United Nations climate change negotiations or incorporate climate change into their regional integration initiatives. However, the patterns of diversity and fragmentation in terms of climate commitment are probably more visible than the common ones, as LAC countries vary widely in terms of volume and trajectory of emissions, climate political instruments at the domestic level, and cooperative efforts in the international arena. As the climate crisis deepens, LAC countries will face a monumental test to adapt to increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, enhanced climate variability, and extreme weather events. It is also imperative for the region’s countries to increase their level of climate commitment and implement stronger measures both nationally and internationally, finding deeper ways to cooperate in managing one of the major global governance problems facing humanity.


Latin American Labor Regulation in the 21st Century  

Matthew E. Carnes

The labor market of the 21st century is evolving at a rapid pace, making traditional manufacturing and agricultural jobs increasingly precarious and generating significant pressure for turnover, retraining, and adaptation by workers. Latin America’s labor regulation, adopted in the middle of the 20th century to foster industrial development and incorporate urban workers, has been slow to adapt to these conditions. Its restrictive and costly hiring and firing rules offer stronger protections than in many other parts of the world, but they often apply to a diminishing minority of laborers. Despite a few exceptions, once-strong unions have been hollowed out in the region, and workers have become increasingly atomized in their job seeking. The region’s educational systems are plagued by underinvestment, and they struggle to provide the needed technical skills that could galvanize investment that would provide higher-wage employment. Large segments of the workforce—a majority in most countries—find themselves in the informal sector, in jobs that are not registered with the state and that do not make contributions to pensions and social security systems. Why has Latin America—a region endowed with a variety of natural resources and a resilient entrepreneurial spirit—exhibited these patterns in its labor market regulation? The answer lies in an overlapping nexus of economic and political influences in the region. In this complex mix, one strand of scholarship has documented the lasting and recurrent alliance between organized labor and political parties on the left. Another strand has highlighted the concentrated power of business interests—both local and transnational—that have had the power to shape policies. And a third body of research concentrates on the electoral dynamics that have given rise to a growing set of politically motivated policies that seek to support informal sector workers, but may incentivize their remaining in that status. Finally, considerable attention has been given to the under-resourced state agencies that are not adequately monitoring labor regulations, allowing for widespread evasion of required payroll taxes. A change-resistant cycle has predominated in the region, in which protected insiders in the unionized sectors seek to preserve a set of protections that apply to a shrinking few, while politicians court support among outsiders with direct benefits that address immediate needs but have not yet achieved long-term or intergenerational change. Business interests have largely benefited from the status quo of labor law evasion and social security avoidance, so they have been slow to invest in upgrading the workforce or changing technology that would inspire additional investment in education. Addressing this situation will require efforts at both the political and economic levels, perhaps loosening the partisan ties that lock in preferential policies, as well as increasing the skill levels that would attract higher-tech industries and higher-paying jobs.


The Politics of Domestic Taxation  

Lucy Barnes

All governments require revenue, and domestic taxes are the primary means for generating it. Yet both the size and shape of taxation vary significantly across countries and have been transformed over time. What explains variation in domestic taxation? To answer this question, recent scholarship on taxation has focused on the politics of taxation as a tool for redistribution. This has led to a wide body of research on the fiscal impact of taxation and on the introduction, evolution, and variation in direct and progressive tax regimes, particularly the income tax. Yet the focus on taxation as a redistributive tool yields a puzzle, as more progressive tax systems tend to be found where redistribution is in fact the lowest. Explanations of this paradox often center on the impossibility of high and progressive taxes on capital in the context of international economic integration. Not as well studied are taxes other than the taxation of income, and the deliberate politics of nonfiscal, regulatory, and incentive effects of different tax choices. Methodologically, problems of endogeneity are ubiquitous in the study of tax policy choices, but more sophisticated experimental work is well underway in research on individual preferences for taxation.