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Thinking Ahead: Government Time Horizons and the Legalization of International Investment Agreements

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 October 2013

Daniel J. Blake*
Affiliation:
IE University, Madrid, Spain. E-mail: Daniel.Blake@ie.edu
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Abstract

International institutions help governments make credible commitments to other state and nonstate actors by raising the costs of commitment violation. However, in doing so these institutions generate sovereignty costs for national governments by constraining the autonomy they have to develop and implement policy. Governments respond to this trade-off between the credibility of commitments and policy autonomy differently depending on their time horizons and this shapes their preferences over the design of credibility-enhancing institutions. Governments with long time horizons expect to govern in the future, anticipate that conditions may shift over time, and therefore seek institutional designs that will afford them greater freedom to modify policies in response to changing economic and political conditions. Governments with shorter time horizons, on the other hand, do not anticipate being in power long into the future and therefore are less concerned about maintaining greater room to manipulate policy. I develop this argument in the context of bilateral investment treaties (BITs), focusing in particular on the legalization of obligation in national treatment commitments. I test the argument using an original data set of the design of national treatment obligations in a random sample of 342 BITs. I find that net importers of FDI with longer time horizons are more likely to build in greater policy autonomy in their BITs by scaling back the legalization of their national treatment obligations and that this relationship is robust to controlling for selection into investment treaties.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The IO Foundation 2013 

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