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Why Do Some Countries Get Better WTO Accession Terms Than Others?


  • Pelc, Krzysztof J.


The process by which countries accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO) has become the subject of considerable debate. This article takes a closer look at what determines the concessions the institution requires of an entrant. In other words, who gets a good deal, and who does not? I argue that given the institutional design of accession proceedings and the resulting suspension of reciprocity, accession terms are driven by the domestic export interests of existing members. As a result, relatively greater liberalization will be imposed on those entrants that have more valuable market access to offer upon accession, something that appears to be in opposition to expectations during multilateral trade rounds, where market access functions as a bargaining chit. The empirical evidence supports these assertions. Looking at eighteen recent entrants at the six-digit product level, I find that controlling for a host of country-specific variables, as well as the applied protection rates on a given product prior to accession, the more a country has to offer, the more it is required to give. Moreover, I show how more democratic countries, in spite of their greater overall depth of integration, exhibit greater resistance to adjustment in key industries than do nondemocracies. Finally, I demonstrate that wealth exhibits a curvilinear effect. On the one hand, institutionalized norms lead members to exercise observable restraint vis-à-vis the poorest countries. On the other hand, the richest countries have the greatest bargaining expertise, and thus obtain better terms. The outcome, as I show using a semi-parametric analysis, is that middle-income countries end up with the most stringent terms, and have to make the greatest relative adjustments to their trade regimes.

Suggested Citation

  • Pelc, Krzysztof J., 2011. "Why Do Some Countries Get Better WTO Accession Terms Than Others?," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(04), pages 639-672, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:65:y:2011:i:04:p:639-672_00

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    Cited by:

    1. Leonardo Baccini & Johannes Urpelainen, 2014. "Before ratification: understanding the timing of international treaty effects on domestic policies," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 50278, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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