Over-commitment and backsliding in international trade

Jeffrey Kucik, Krzysztof J. Pelc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


'International commitments pay' could be the mantra of the current literature on international organisations: tying their hands at the international level is a means for governments to push through politically costly, but ultimately welfare-enhancing reforms. It is argued in this article that this logic has a limit, which can be empirically observed. Past a given point, further depth of integration increases odds of backsliding. This belief is tested in the context of accession to an institution whose rules have been heavily scrutinised: the World Trade Organization (WTO). Countries with low rule of law are imposed a risk premium in the form of demands for deeper concessions, making 'over-committing' possible. This relationship is used to assess the extent to which deeper commitments lead to backsliding. Industry-level analysis supports these beliefs: deep commitments lead to increased odds of backtracking through a range of legal and extra-legal mechanisms. Ambitious international commitments can backfire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-415
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • International trade
  • Interstate cooperation
  • World Trade Organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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