v17_2006d - Treaty Compliance: Lessons from the Softwood...

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47 Treaty Compliance: Lessons from the Softwood Lumber Case 3 T REATY C OMPLIANCE : L ESSONS FROM THE S OFTWOOD L UMBER C ASE Jeff Colgan The Canada-U.S. dispute over softwood lumber imports pro- vides an important case in understanding issues of international bargaining and treaty compliance. Recent events in the dispute suggest that one of the leading theoretical accounts of treaty compliance does not offer an adequate explanation of state behavior. Policy makers should recognize the importance of cross-border ownership and industry interdependence for the implementation of, and compliance with, international trade agreements. The softwood lumber dispute adds credence to the perspective, often advocated by realists, that treaty compli- ance will only occur when it is in a nation’s material interests to do so. 1 I NTRODUCTION The Canada-U.S. argument over softwood lumber is among the world’s most important and longstanding bilateral economic trade disputes. The issue has been contentious for at least two hundred years; its modern incarnation has produced F ve principal cases and dozens of intermediary rulings at international tribunals spread over more than twenty years. Moreover, the dispute is between two friendly countries who share a deep alliance that all but precludes the resolution of the issue by force. As such, it provides an especially important window on issues of international bargaining and treaty compliance. Within the academic literature on compliance, there is signiF cant debate about the extent to which treaties shape countries’ behavior. One Jeff Colgan is a Ph.D. candidate at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University (jcolgan@princeton.edu).
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48 Jeff Colgan side of the debate, represented by Downs et al., argues that cooperation via international agreements is shallow and that countries’ actions are little different from what they would be absent those agreements (Downs et al. 1996, 379-406). On the other side are those who argue that the most appropriate guiding assumption for treaty compliance is that “na- tions generally comply with their international agreements” (Chayes and Chayes 1993, 175-205). The principal claim of this paper is that one of the leading accounts of treaty compliance in the international relations literature, exempliF ed in Chayes and Chayes’ article, lacks explanatory power in the softwood lumber case in a number of important ways. In particular, none of the three considerations offered by Chayes and Chayes robustly explains compliance in the lumber case. While acknowledging that this is just a single case, the softwood lumber dispute adds credence to the perspective, often advocated by realists, that treaty compliance will only occur when it is in a nation’s interest to do so.
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v17_2006d - Treaty Compliance: Lessons from the Softwood...

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