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Trading Human Rights: How Preferential Trade Agreements Influence Government Repression

  • Emilie M. Hafner-Burton (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 July 2005

A growing number of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) have come to play a significant role in governing state compliance with human rights. When they supply hard standards that tie material benefits of integration to compliance with human rights principles, PTAs are more effective than softer human rights agreements (HRAs) in changing repressive behaviors. PTAs improve members' human rights through coercion, by supplying the instruments and resources to change actors' incentives to promote reforms that would not otherwise be implemented. I develop three hypotheses: (1) state commitment to HRAs and (2) PTAs supplying soft human rights standards (not tied to market benefits) do not systematically produce improvement in human rights behaviors, while (3) state commitment to PTAs supplying hard human rights standards does often produce better practices. I draw on several cases to illustrate the processes of influence and test the argument on the experience of 177 states during the period 1972 to 2002.I would like to thank Mike Colaresi, Dan Drezner, David Lake, Lisa Martin, Walter Mattli, John Meyer, Mark Pollack, Erik Voeten, Jim Vreeland, and two anonymous reviewers for their detailed and thoughtful comments on various drafts of this manuscript, as well as the many other people who have helped me by asking hard questions along the way. I would also like to thank Michael Barnett, Charles Franklin, and Jon Pevehouse for advice during the dissertation research that supports this article, and Alexander H. Montgomery for assistance in data management. All faults are my own. For generous assistance in the collection of data, I thank the National Science Foundation (SES 2CDZ414 and SES 0135422), John Meyer, and Francisco Ramirez. For support during the writing of the article, I thank Nuffield College at Oxford University, and most importantly, Lynn Eden and Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation.

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International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
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