Agents or Advisers? Bureaucratic Structure and the Politics of Protection

Abstract. Despite the bureaucracy's central role in shaping how competing preferences are aggregated into policy, studies of trade policy have largely neglected its role. This paper argues interest group input can empower bureaucrats with more information, but it also leads to narrowly targeted interests increasingly gaining control over policy. This effect is mitigated by bureaucratic structures endowed with more independence and internal expertise, and which are less reliant on formalized channels of industry participation. I take advantage of WTO reports to construct a dataset that identifies all bureaucracies in charge of trade policy and categorize their structure across a panel of 135 countries and 20 years. The empirical test assesses the effect of bureaucracies on non-tariff barriers - a form of administered protection. I find that bureaucracies with apolitical expertise implement policies that are less protectionist than those that engage active industry participation, controlling for macroeconomic shocks and confounders for institutional design.

Presented at.  GRIPE: Global Research in International Political Economy (February 2021); JPOSS: Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (as part of Practice Job Talk, October 2020); International Political Economy Society (November 2020); American Political Science Association Annual Meeting (scheduled September 2020); American Political Science Association Annual Meeting (August 2019); Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, U.S.-Japan Program, Harvard University (May 2019)


Do International Bureaucrats Matter? Theory and Evidence from the IMF (with Amanda Kennard)

Abstract. Scholars of international cooperation argue that member states delegate decision making authority to international organizations (IOs) as a commitment to non-interference. We argue this logic conflates the objects of delegation with the mechanisms by which delegation is made credible. Member states delegate decision making authority to international bureaucrats. The credibility of delegation depends on institutional features of the relevant IO. Where delegation is credible, individual bureaucrats will exercise an independent impact on policy making. We test the credibility of delegation within the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We develop a formal model of bureaucratic appointments, characterize their equilibrium impact on market valuations of sovereign debt, and provide causal estimates of this impact employing event study methods. Our analytical results provide a direct test of the credibility of delegation as well as a transparent theoretical interpretation of the causal estimand. We find strong and consistent support for the credibility of delegation within the IMF.

Presented at. American Political Science Association Annual Meeting (August 2019); Society for Political Methodology Annual Meeting (PolMeth XXXVI, July 2019); Political Economy of International Organizations Annual Meeting (February 2019)


Restructuring Japan: Administrative Reform and the Quest for Free Trade

Abstract. Recent research has highlighted the importance of bureaucracies in shaping trade policy. What are the mechanisms underlining this relationship? I argue that more autonomous and consolidated bureaucratic structures support trade liberalization via two mechanisms: by limiting interest groups' access to bureaucratic processes and networks, as well as by reducing the number of veto players. This paper features a within-case study of Japan to illustrate mechanisms for how interest groups maneuver within bureaucratic structures to exert influence over trade policy.  It leverages the bureaucratic reforms Japan  experienced  since  late  1990s to show reduced interest group access during periods of increased autonomy and consolidation drove trade liberalization. In contrast, increased access during periods of lower bureaucratic autonomy led to less trade liberalization. 

Presented at.  Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, U.S.-Japan Program, Harvard University (March 2021); JPOSS: Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (as part of Practice Job Talk, October 2020)


Foreign Policy or Industrial Policy? The Design of Trade Bureaucracy (with Christina Davis and Yon Soo Park)

Abstract. Foreign trade is at the nexus of commerce and diplomacy.  This presents a challenge for policymakers. Managing trade as commercial policy will risk capture as an instrument of industrial policy. Alternatively, handling trade as part of the foreign policy portfolio risks cooptation as a tool of economic statecraft.  Confronting this dilemma, the United States Congress established the USTR as an independent agency focused exclusively on trade policy. Trade policy in most other countries falls under the jurisdiction of either the foreign ministry or the commerce ministry – what explains the choice to center trade policy closer to industry or foreign policy? We argue that the structure of trade policy reveals underlying government priorities over foreign policy versus industrial policy. Governments with a higher demand for linking trade and foreign policy are more likely to unite them under the same ministry. In contrast, governments with an active industrial policy will locate trade in the commerce ministry. The creation of a separate agency like the USTR reflects divided preferences that may arise in a presidential system. We analyze an original dataset of comparative trade policies for all WTO countries over the period 1995-2018 coded from WTO Trade Policy Reviews.  Using measures of diplomatic engagement, sectoral policies, and form of government, we test what conditions influence the structure of trade policy. Case studies explore decision points in the design of several unusual cases -- the creation of USTR, redesign of trade portfolio in Canada and Korea, and dual representation balance in Japan.

Presented at. International Political Economy Society (November 2020); American Political Science Association Annual Meeting (scheduled October 2021)


How Bureaucratic Networks Shape Market Access: The Effect of Revolving Door Connections on FDI and Trade of Japanese firms (with Sayumi Miyano)

How do firms address difficulties in doing business abroad and make foreign direct investment decisions? Research in IPE highlights host government characteristics affect firms’ decisions to invest abroad. In this paper, we argue that ties with the home government also factor in firms' FDI strategies. In particular, we argue home state – business relations shaped by revolving-door dynamics encourage firms’ activities abroad via two mechanisms. First, they bring access to information that helps them navigate through bureaucratic regulatory procedures abroad. Second, home bureaucrats help firms build connections with the host government that give them a better sense of protection against future expropriation risks. We test this theory using micro-level data from Japan—a country that, in 2009, passed civil service reforms that mandate public reporting of re-employment of all retired civil servants. We take advantage of these changes to retrieve the full network of bureaucratic-firm connections for the period 2009-2020. We combine this novel dataset on Japanese firms’ revolving-door employment with firm-level data on firms’ characteristics, subsidiaries, and investment activities for a sample of 7000 Japanese parent firms and 25000 of their foreign subsidiaries. We find that firms with more bureaucratic ties engage more in FDI. These effects are more pronounced for investments in countries with higher political risk levels, such as those in autocratic host countries.  We use interviews with governmental officials and business representatives to further probe mechanisms. Even within the same nationality or productivity level, firms with ties to home bureaucrats are better positioned to do business abroad.

Presented at. International Political Economy Society (scheduled October 2021)

A Political Precautionary Theory of Incentives Shaping Exchange Rate Outcomes (with Erik Wang)

Abstract. What explains countries' decision to devalue their currencies? Recent studies in international economics suggest that developing countries might devalue their currencies not merely to promote growth, but also as a precautionary measure to ensure financial stability following capital account liberalization. Currency under-valuation enables countries to build up large foreign exchange reserves, which will help combat capital flight and currency attacks. This research introduces a political precautionary theory that highlights how variation in incumbents' political incentives, in addition to economic concerns, shapes exchange rate outcomes. We argue that leaders with higher political stakes in financial stability have stronger incentives to build up foreign reserves by devaluing currencies. Our data generally supports this hypothesis, and additional analysis further rules out alternative explanations. We explore our theory in a case study of East Asia, with a focus on China, where the authoritarian regime's incentives to devalue are decidedly political.

Presented at. American Political Science Association Annual Meeting (August 2017)



I have also been a member of the Fragile Families Challenge Team, a multi-disciplinary collaborative project across the social sciences and data science that used predictive modeling and other techniques to predict outcomes of children’s well-being. You can read more about the challenge here. My colleagues and I have won the prize for best prediction for the outcome material hardship (out of 160 teams and a total of 441 researchers). Our methods and results are described in:

Using LASSO to Assist Imputation and Predict Child Well-being (with Erik Wang and Soichiro Yamauchi, 2019. Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World)

Measuring the Predictability of Life Outcomes with a Scientific Mass Collaboration (Salganik et al., 2020. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)