International Organization

Research Article

Does Flexibility Promote Cooperation? An Application to the Global Trade Regime

Jeffrey Kucika1 and Eric Reinhardta2

a1 Department of Political Science, Emory University, Atlanta. E-mail:

a2 Department of Political Science, Emory University, Atlanta. E-mail:


Do flexibility provisions in international agreements—clauses allowing for legal suspension of concessions without abrogating the treaty—promote cooperation? Recent work emphasizes that provisions for relaxing treaty commitments can ironically make states more likely to form agreements and make deeper concessions when doing so. This argument has particularly been applied to the global trade regime, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and its successor, the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yet the field has not produced much evidence bearing on this claim. Our article applies this claim to the global trade regime and its chief flexibility provision, antidumping. In contrast to prior work, this article explicitly models the endogeneity and selection processes envisioned by the theory. We find that states joining the WTO are more likely to adopt domestic antidumping mechanisms. Likewise, corrected for endogeneity, states able to take advantage of the regime's principal flexibility provision, by having a domestic antidumping mechanism in place, are significantly more likely to (1) join the WTO, (2) agree to more tightly binding tariff commitments, and (3) implement lower applied tariffs as well.


The authors would like to thank the editors and two anonymous reviewers, as well as Chad Bown, Marc Busch, Meredith Crowley, Yoram Haftel, Petros Mavroidis, Peter Rosendorff, and Joel Trachtman for helpful comments and suggestions. A portion of this research was funded by National Science Foundation Grant Award 0351078.