Skip to main content

Disguised Protectionism and Linkages to the GATT/WTO

  • Moonhawk Kim (a1)

Member states of the GATT/WTO have linked some issue-areas outside trade to the institution and did so with varying depths. At the same time they have chosen not to link other issue-areas. What accounts for this variation? The author argues that states establish a legalized linkage between the GATT/WTO and an issue-area outside it when they are uncertain about the possibilities of disguised protectionism. Such uncertainty exists under two conditions: when diversity in regulations in an issue-area across states generates a large adverse impact on trade (negative externalities) but that diversity can be justified at the international level for (1) having an independent objective apart from hampering trade and (2) when there are few alternative policies to achieve that objective (legitimacy). States establish a highly legalized linkage in these situations to reduce the uncertainty and minimize disguised protectionism. By contrast, when regulatory diversity exhibits low legitimacy, states establish only a weakly legalized linkage. In the absence of meaningful externalities, they do not establish any linkages. The author evaluates this argument in two ways. He provides an overview of eleven issue-areas about which there have been some debates or conflicts about linkages to the GATT/WTO. In addition, he carries out in-depth case studies of three issue-areas—labor standards, environmental standards, and health safety standards. The findings of this article contribute to a better understanding of international institutions and cooperation as well as of the evolution of the multilateral trade institution.

Hide All

* This article has benefited immensely from helpful comments and feedback from the following individuals: participants in the IBS Institutions workshop group—in particular, Andy Baker, David Brown, Carew Boulding, and David Leblang—Steve Vanderheiden, Scott Wolford, and especially Judy Goldstein and Joe Jupille. Thoughtful feedback and questions from three anonymous reviewers and the editors of World Politics improved the article immensely.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
  • EISSN: 1086-3338
  • URL: /core/journals/world-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed