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Domestic Politics, Trade Policy, and Economic Sanctions: A Public Choice Model with Application to United States-Chinese Relations


  • Pahre, R.


Economic sanctions are not only a foreign policy tool but a form of trade policy. Like other kinds of trade policy, sanctions attract domestic political support from both protectionists and the human rights lobby. Sometimes the human rights lobby can piggyback on protectionists to encourage policy-makers to demand sanctions, while protectionists can also hijack the human rights issue for their own ends. Two variables, WTO membership and an independent legislature, affect both the likelihood and the form of sanctions in this domestic political environment. WTO membership, like MFN treatment in general, mobilizes export interests against a trade sanctions policy. Congress's more hawkish preferences on both trade policy and human rights mean that when the United States imposes sanctions against a WTO member, it is likely to do so under congressional leadership and perhaps against the will of the president. These variables color Sino-American trade relations today.

Suggested Citation

  • Pahre, R., 1998. "Domestic Politics, Trade Policy, and Economic Sanctions: A Public Choice Model with Application to United States-Chinese Relations," Working Papers 418, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:mie:wpaper:418

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    JEL classification:

    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations


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