The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 283–310 | Cite as

Enduring trade disputes: Disguised protectionism and duration and recurrence of international trade disputes

  • Moonhawk Kim


Why do some WTO trade disputes endure and recur while others do not? States have difficulty resolving trade conflicts when they involve certain types of trade-restrictive domestic regulations. While such regulations vary in their extent of legitimacy—fulfilling non-trade domestic regulatory objectives and availability of less trade-restrictive options—complainant states cannot always distinguish legitimate barriers from illegitimate ones. In such scenarios of disguised protectionism, which I argue is most prevalent with policies involving WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement, disputants confront difficulties concluding their disputes. Disputes last longer and are more likely to recur. I test the argument against a data set of WTO disputes structured in an innovative manner—one that links together related and recurring disputes into single conflicts. Both an event history analysis of conflict duration and a count analysis of conflict recurrence using this data strongly support this argument.


GATT/WTO Dispute settlement Domestic regulations Protectionism 

JEL Classification

C41 F13 F51 



The research for this article was generously supported by the Colorado European Union Center of Excellence (CEUCE) and the Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences (CARTSS) at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, the Institutions Group of the Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Governance and Conflicts Workshop sponsored by CU Political Science and One Earth Foundation. I amgrateful for comments I received at these venues. I would like to especially thank David Bearce, Carew Boulding, David Brown, Julia Gray, Bobby Gulotty, Johannes Karreth, Soo Yeon Kim and Sarah Sokhey for helpful comments. Cliff Carrubba and Leslie Johns provided useful guidance on specifying the bargaining model portion of the argument. Jeff Kucik and Krzysztof Pelc provided me the trade data for WTO disputes. Chris Cyr and Megan Roosevelt provided valuable research assistance for the project. Lastly, two anonymous reviewers patiently encouraged me along through major revisions of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

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