Distributional Conflict Between Powerful States and International Treaty Ratification


  • Author’s note: We thank the anonymous reviewers, the editors of International Studies Quarterly, Abraham Newman, Michael Doyle, Robert O. Keohane, Soo Yeon Kim, Barbara Koremenos, Mark Pollack, Gabriele Ruoff, Branislav Slantchev, and Randy Stone for helpful comments on previous versions of this paper. The paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in 2010. A Stata replication package can be found in the ISQ data archive.


Schneider, Christina J. and Johannes Urpelainen. (2012) Distributional Conflict Between Powerful States and International Treaty Ratification. International Studies Quarterly, doi: 10.1111/isqu.12024
© 2012 International Studies Association

Why do states ratify international treaties? While previous research has emphasized domestic political factors, we focus on power politics in situations in which powerful states disagree on the merits of a treaty. We argue that states supporting the status quo should discourage third parties from ratifying the treaty, whereas challenger states should entice them to do so. Based on this theory, we expect third parties’ ratification decisions to be influenced by their dependence on the conflicting states. To test the theory, we use data on the conflict between the United States and the European Union over the regulation of trade in genetically modified organisms. The European Union created a new treaty, the Cartagena Protocol, to enhance biosafety regulation and propagate the “precautionary principle” over the “sound science principle” defended by the United States. Our quantitative analysis shows that ratification decisions of third parties were influenced by relations to and dependence on the clashing giants.