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Signaling by Signature: The Weight of International Opinion and Ratification of Treaties by Domestic Veto Players*

  • David Hugh-Jones, Karolina Milewicz and Hugh Ward


The signing of international treaties is usually considered insignificant for international legal cooperation. Accordingly, International Relations theorists have paid it little attention. We show in this paper how and why treaty signature matters for the ultimate decision to ratify an international treaty. We argue that when multiple well-informed actors publicly sign an international treaty, this can provide a strong signal of issue importance to domestic veto players, and in turn may persuade them to ratify the treaty. We formalize this argument in a two-level signaling game, and test it on a data set of 126 international environmental agreements. We find that treaties are more likely to be ratified when their signatories include countries with high levels of general or issue-specific knowledge.



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David Hugh-Jones, Senior Lecturer, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Research Park, Norwich NR47TJ, UK ( Karolina Milewicz, Associate Professor, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, Manor Rd, Oxford OX13UQ, UK ( Hugh Ward, Department of Government, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO34SQ, Essex ( We thank to Bob Goodin, Noel Johnston, Duncan Snidal and the reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the International Relations Colloquium, University of Oxford. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit



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Signaling by Signature: The Weight of International Opinion and Ratification of Treaties by Domestic Veto Players*

  • David Hugh-Jones, Karolina Milewicz and Hugh Ward


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