Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 September 2019
What type of trade agreement is the public willing to accept? Instead of focusing on individual concerns about market access and trade barriers, we argue that specific treaty design and, in particular, the characteristics of the dispute settlement mechanism, play a critical role in shaping public support for trade agreements. To examine this theoretical expectation, we conduct a conjoint experiment that varies diverse treaty-design elements and estimate preferences over multiple dimensions of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) based on a nationally representative sample in Germany. We find that compared to other alternatives, private arbitration, known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), generates strong opposition to the trade agreement. As the single most important factor, this effect of dispute settlement characteristic is strikingly large and consistent across individuals’ key attributes, including skill levels, information, and national sentiment, among others.