Chaudoin, Stephen, Helen V. Milner, and Dustin Tingley. Forthcoming. “A Liberal International American Foreign Policy Under Trump? Maybe Down but Not Out”. In Chaos in the Liberal Order: The Trump Presidency and International Politics in the 21st Century, ed. Robert Jervis, et al. New York: Columbia University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In this article we argue that the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress will find it in its own interests to maintain many existing elements of U.S. foreign policy—which will continue to have substantial liberal internationalist components. In part, this is because liberal internationalism still advances America’s vital national interests. America’s many allies help it coordinate its defense and security and, for a price, make America more powerful; they help extend American influence and assist in the fight against global problems like terrorism. The trade and investment agreements the United States has negotiated and its World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments help ensure a fairer and more open world economy in which the American economy can prosper. The international institutions the U.S. created after World War II, such as the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, still enable it to influence—though not determine—the structure of all international economic and political relations. Exiting or ending these agreements will not enhance U.S. power or security; renegotiating them may give the U.S. a bit more leverage in the short run, but in the longer run may also destroy any good will the country possesses. Moreover, disengaging from the world will only leave it more susceptible to the influence of other powerful countries that might not have America's interests at heart, like China or Russia.

Mansfield, Edward, and Helen V. Milner. Forthcoming. “The Domestic Politics of Preferential Trade Agreements in Hard Times”. World Trade Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract

There is evidence that some countries negotiate trade agreements during economic downturns. Why would a leader do this? We argue that political leaders can gain from such agreements because of the signals they send to their public. The public are less likely to blame leaders for adverse economic conditions when they have implemented sound economic policies, such as signing agreements designed to liberalize trade and prevent a slide into protectionism. In hard economic times, leaders – especially those in democratic environments – may find that trade agreements are a useful way to reassure the public. Since majorities in many countries around the world view trade favorably, leaders may see agreements that prevent them from adopting protectionism as a way to maintain support. We evaluate this argument by analyzing preferential trade agreements (PTAs) formed since 1962. We find that, on average, democratic countries are more likely to ratify PTAs during hard economic times. We also find that democratic leaders who sign PTAs during downturns enjoy a longer tenure than their counterparts who do not sign such agreements.

Findley, Michael G., et al. Forthcoming. “Who Controls Foreign Aid? Elite versus Public Perceptions of Donor Influence in Aid-Dependent Uganda”. International Organization.Abstract

Does foreign aid enable or constrain elite capture of public revenues? Reflecting on prominent debates in the foreign aid literature, we examine whether recipient preferences are consistent with a view that foreign donors wield substantial control over the flow of aid dollars, making elite capture more difficult and mass benefits more likely. We compare elite and mass support for foreign aid versus government spending on development projects through a survey experiment with behavioral outcomes. A key innovation is a parallel experiment on members of the Ugandan national parliament and a representative sample of Ugandan citizens. For two actual aid projects, we randomly assigned different funders to the projects. Significant treatment effects reveal that members of parliament support government programs over foreign aid, whereas citizens prefer aid over government. Donor control also implies that citizens should favor foreign aid more and elites less as their perceptions of government clientelism and corruption in-crease. We explore this and report on other alternative mechanisms. Effects for citizens and elites are most apparent for those perceiving significant government corruption, suggesting that both sets of subjects perceive significant donor control over aid.

Chilton, Adam, Helen V. Milner, and Dustin Tingley. 2017. “Trump just blocked a Chinese takeover of a sensitive U.S. company. Here’s what’s going on.”. Washington Post Monkey Cage. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Even in cases where the national security implications of sales have been less clear, Chinese investors looking to buy U.S. companies have been facing increasing scrutiny. Over the past several years, we have been researching the role that politics plays in regulating investments between the United States and China. We find that even though the explicit justification for U.S. hostility to Chinese investments is national security, much of the real politics involves the question of whether China is willing to reciprocate U.S. market openness by opening up its own companies to U.S. investors.
Findley, Michael G., Helen V. Milner, and Daniel L. Nielson. 2017. “The choice among aid donors: The effects of multilateral vs. bilateral aid on recipient behavioral support”. The Review of International Organizations 12 (2) : 307–334. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Scholars studying foreign assistance differ over whether multilateral aid is preferable to bilateral aid for promoting development, but nearly all build their cases primarily on highly aggregated cross-national time-series data. We investigate this topic experimentally from the perspective of those whom the foreign aid directly affects: recipient citizens and elites. We thus report results of a survey experiment with behavioral outcomes on more than 3000 Ugandan citizens and over 300 members of Uganda’s Parliament. In spite of a large literature suggesting differences, the findings generally reveal few substantive differences in citizens’ and elites’ preferences and behavior toward the two types of aid. While no strong pattern of differences emerges, limited evidence suggests that the public evinces greater trust in multilateral institutions, and both masses and elites feel that multilateral aid is more transparent. Overall, these null results inform an ever-expanding literature, which is increasingly articulating distinctions between multilateral and bilateral aid. At least in the minds of the recipients, however, multilateral and bilateral aid may not in fact be all that different. This accords with the literature noting the strong overlap in aid organizations and bemoaning the fact that they do not specialize more. Our results raise the question about why have both multilateral and bilateral aid donors if they in effect do the same thing.

Chilton, Adam S., Helen V. Milner, and Dustin Tingley. 2017. “Reciprocity and Public Opposition to Foreign Direct Investment”. British Journal of Political Science. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Prior international political economy public opinion research has primarily examined how economic and socio-cultural factors shape individuals’ views on the flows of goods, people and capital. This research has largely ignored whether individuals also care about rewarding or punishing foreign countries for their policies on these issues. We tested this possibility by administering a series of conjoint and traditional survey experiments in the United States and China that examined how reciprocity influences opposition to foreign acquisitions of domestic companies. We find that reciprocity is an important determinant of public opinion on the regulation of foreign investments. This suggests the need to consider the policies that other countries adopt when trying to explain public attitudes toward global economic integration.

Osgood, Iain, et al. 2017. “The Charmed Life of Superstar Exporters: Survey Evidence on Firms and Trade Policy”. Journal of Politics 79 (1) : 133-152. Publisher's VersionAbstract

What factors determine firms’ attitudes toward trade policy? This paper considers producers’ policy preferences and political behavior in light of two key patterns in modern international trade: industries that face import competition often have many exporters, and foreign sales are concentrated in the hands of a small number of “superstar” exporters. Using a new survey of Costa Rican firms matched to systematic firm-level data on export behavior, we find that firm features are generally more important predictors of attitudes toward trade liberalization than industry-wide comparative advantage. We also show that export intensity is strongly associated with interest and lobbying activity on trade policy. The largest exporters, who are the strongest supporters of global integration, dominate trade politics.

Chaudoin, Stephen, Helen V. Milner, and Dustin Tingley. 2017. “A Liberal International American Foreign Policy? Maybe Down but Not Out”. H-Diplo/ISSF Policy Roundtable 1 (6). Publisher's VersionAbstract

An ongoing debate among prominent scholars of international relations concerns the future direction of American foreign policy. In particular, scholars, pundits, and commentators wonder whether the United States will continue to pursue a liberal internationalist stance. At its core, liberal internationalism entails international engagement, not isolationism. And despite the ‘liberal’ terminology, it is not a policy skewed towards Democrats and political liberals and away from Republicans and political conservatives. Instead the liberal component of internationalism embodies many bi-partisan principles: support for freedom, democracy, human rights, a free press, as well as an open world economy for the movement of goods, services, people, and ideas. Not surprisingly, an amazing amount of ink has been spilled on what the election of Donald Trump as President means for the trajectory of U.S. foreign policy and a possible break from liberal internationalism.

Chaudoin, Stephen, and Helen V. Milner. 2017. “Science and the System: IPE and International Monetary Politics”. Review of International Political Economy 24 (4) : 681-698. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A recent RIPE article by Jerry Cohen argues that current research on the political economy of money has stagnated because of its overemphasis on the scientific method and domestic variables. We argue that a wide array of scientifically oriented research on the IPE of money considers the system in many different ways. To help build a dialogue, we categorize each of these conceptions of ‘the system’ and give examples of their application from recent research on the IPE of money. Our hope is that this typology will help scholars of different approaches recognize the similarities and differences in their research, beyond simply whether the research is scientific or heterodox.

Findley, Michael G., Helen V. Milner, and Daniel L. Nielson. 2016. “Citizen preferences and public goods: comparing preferences for foreign aid and government programs in Uganda”. The Review of International Organizations 11 (2) : 219-245. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Different theories about the impact of aid make distinct predictions about citizens’ attitudes toward foreign aid in recipient countries. We investigate their preferences toward aid and government projects in order to examine these different theories. Are citizens indifferent between development projects funded by their own government versus those funded by foreign aid donors, as aid capture theory suggests? To address this, in an experiment on a large, representative sample of Ugandan citizens, we randomly assigned the names of funding groups for actual forthcoming development projects and invited citizens to express support attitudinally and behaviorally. We find that citizens are significantly more willing to show behavioral support in favor of foreign aid projects compared to government programs, especially if they already perceive the government as corrupt or clientelist or if they are not supporters of the ruling party. They also trust donors more, think they are more effective, and do not consistently oppose aid conditionality. This experimental evidence is consistent with a theory that we call donor control which sees donors asbeing able to target and condition aid so that it is not fungible with government revenues and thus to be able to better direct it to meet citizens’ needs.

mnf_rio_2016.pdf mnf_rio_2016_appendix.pdf
Chaudoin, Stephen, Helen V. Milner, and Xun Pang. 2016. “National Policy Autonomy and the Moderating Effects of Supranational Organizations”. International Studies Quarterly 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Joseph Weinberg’s piece highlights an important substantive and methodological question: how to analyze, theoretically and methodologically, differences in national policy autonomy among countries and across policy areas in the era of globalization or regional integration.  EU membership constrains the policy autonomy of member states, which can change the relationship between the explanatory variables of interest and the outcome variable.  As Weinberg argues, “While a particular set of independent variables may explain outcomes in sovereign countries, those same variables would have little explanatory power where decisions are made by a supranational body” (5). We agree wholeheartedly that, if membership in a supranational institution constrains certain policy outcomes, then researchers should account for that in their theoretical and empirical models.  We disagree, however, on the solution. In particular, we show how multi-level models have important advantages in modelling this phenomenon, compared to the split-sample regressions in his piece.

Kim, Soo Yeon, Edward D. Mansfield, and Helen V. Milner. 2016. “Regional Trade Governance”. In Oxford Handbook of Comparative Regionalism, Oxford (UK): Oxford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The proliferation of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) is the most prominent and prevalent driver of regional trade governance in the contemporary international economy. PTAs grant member states preferential access to each other’s markets, and they also shape the contours of economic regionalism across different geographic neighborhoods. The chapter analyzes the central issues animating scholarship on regional trade governance, with a focus on the role of PTAs and the future research trajectories relevant to the evolution of regional institution-building. It examines the domestic and international political factors that influence the establishment, design, and the political as well as economic effects of PTAs. It also addresses how the budding “mega-PTAs” currently under negotiation may affect the stability and governance of the multilateral trading system. The analysis highlights an important research frontier in the study of PTAs: the emergence of deep integration agreements that seek extensive “behind-the-border” trade liberalization and regulatory coordination.

Milner, Helen V., and Nita Rudra. 2015. “Globalization and the Political Benefits of the Informal Economy ”. International Studies Review 17 (4) : 664-669. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Does global market integration help or hinder government efforts to improve the livelihoods of the world’s poorest citizens? Standard trade theories suggest that government interventions become less imperative as developing countries liberalize. This is because labor in developing economies is abundant and cheap; export products that utilize this factor of production will employ large populations of low-skilled workers who will experience increases in the purchasing power of their wage income. Consumption increases, and the country as a whole is better off. For several decades now, developing economies have embraced this rationale for free trade and its welfare-enhancing effects on the majority.

Milner, Helen V., et al. 2015. “The Political Economy of Inward FDI: Opposition to Chinese Mergers and Acquisitions”. Chinese Journal of International Politics 8 (1) : 27-57. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A great deal of political economy scholarship has focused on how countries can attract foreign direct investment (FDI), and the effects of FDI on growth and political stability. A related topic that has received almost no attention, however, is that of divergent political reactions to inflows of FDI in the countries receiving investments. This is an oversight, because inward FDI flows are not equally welcomed by the host country and, in fact, often encounter strong political opposition. We study this phenomenon by examining political opposition to attempts by Chinese companies at mergers and acquisitions (M&As) with US firms. This is especially important given rapidly expanding Chinese M&A activity. We hypothesise that although most legal barriers to foreign M&As are based on national security considerations, objections on these grounds are often vehicles through which to channel other grievances, and that economic distress and reciprocity are also key drivers of political opposition. To test this theory, we constructed an original dataset of 569 transactions that occurred between 1999 and 2014 involving Chinese acquirers and American targets. We find that there is more likely to be opposition to Chinese M&A attempts in security sensitive industries, economically distressed industries, and sectors in which US companies faced restrictions in China’s M&A markets.

Mansfield, Edward D., and Helen V. Milner. 2015. “The Political Economy of Preferential Trade Agreements”. In Trade Cooperation: The Purpose, Design and Effects of Preferential Trade Agreements, Cambridge (UK), New York: Cambridge University Press , p. 56-81. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Preferential trade agreements (PTAs) have been proliferating for more than two decades, with the negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and a Trans-Pacific Partnership being just the tip of the iceberg. This volume addresses some of the most pressing issues related to the surge of these agreements. It includes chapters written by leading political scientists, economists and lawyers which theoretically and empirically advance our understanding of trade agreements. The key theme is that PTAs vary widely in terms of design. The authors provide explanations as to why we see these differences in design and whether and how these differences matter in practice. The tools for understanding the purposes and effects of PTAs that are offered will guide future research and inform practitioners and trade policy experts about progress in the scientific enquiry into PTAs.

Sailing the Water’s Edge: The Domestic Politics of American Foreign Policy
Milner, Helen V., and Dustin Tingley. 2015. 352 Sailing the Water’s Edge: The Domestic Politics of American Foreign Policy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. PublisherAbstract

When engaging with other countries, the U.S. government has a number of different policy instruments at its disposal, including foreign aid, international trade, and the use of military force. But what determines which policies are chosen? Does the United States rely too much on the use of military power and coercion in its foreign policies? Sailing the Water's Edge focuses on how domestic U.S. politics—in particular the interactions between the president, Congress, interest groups, bureaucratic institutions, and the public—have influenced foreign policy choices since World War II and shows why presidents have more control over some policy instruments than others. Presidential power matters and it varies systematically across policy instruments.


Helen Milner and Dustin Tingley consider how Congress and interest groups have substantial material interests in and ideological divisions around certain issues and that these factors constrain presidents from applying specific tools. As a result, presidents select instruments that they have more control over, such as use of the military. This militarization of U.S. foreign policy raises concerns about the nature of American engagement, substitution among policy tools, and the future of U.S. foreign policy. Milner and Tingley explore whether American foreign policy will remain guided by a grand strategy of liberal internationalism, what affects American foreign policy successes and failures, and the role of U.S. intelligence collection in shaping foreign policy. The authors support their arguments with rigorous theorizing, quantitative analysis, and focused case studies, such as U.S. foreign policy in Sub-Saharan Africa across two presidential administrations.


Sailing the Water’s Edge examines the importance of domestic political coalitions and institutions on the formation of American foreign policy.

Büthe, Tim, and Helen V. Milner. 2014. “Foreign Direct Investment and Institutional Diversity in Trade Agreements: Credibility, Commitment, and Economic Flows in the Developing World, 1971–2007”. World Politics 66 (1) : 88-122. Publisher's VersionAbstract

International trade agreements lead to more foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries. This article examines the causal mechanisms underpinning this trade-investment linkage by asking whether institutional features of preferential trade agreements (PTAs), which allow governments to make more credible commitments to protect foreign investments, indeed result in greater FDI. The authors explore three institutional differences. First, they examine whether PTAs that have entered into force lead to greater FDI than PTAs that have merely been negotiated and signed, since only the former constitute a binding commitment under international law. Second, they ask whether trade agreements that have investment clauses lead to greater FDI. Third, they consider whether PTAs with dispute-settlement mechanisms lead to greater FDI. Analyses of FDI flows into 122 developing countries from 1971 to 2007 show that trade agreements that include stronger mechanisms for credible commitment induce more FDI. Institutional diversity in international agreements matters.

Chaudoin, Stephen, Helen V. Milner, and Xun Pang. 2014. “International Systems and Domestic Politics: Linking Complex Interactions with Empirical Models in International Relations”. International Organization 69 (2) : 275-309. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Following older debates in international relations literature concerning the relative importance of domestic versus systemic factors, newer debates emphasize interdependence among states and the complex interactions between systemic and domestic factors. As globalization and democratization advance, theories and empirical models of international politics have become more complicated. We present a systematic theoretical categorization of relationships between domestic and systemic variables. We use this categorization so that scholars can match their theory to the appropriate empirical model and assess the degree to which systemic factors affect their arguments. We also present two advances at the frontier of these empirical models. In one, we combine hierarchical models of moderating relationships with spatial models of interdependence among units within a system. In the other, we provide a model for analyzing spatial interdependence that varies over time. This enables us to examine how the level of interdependence among units has evolved. We illustrate our categorization and new models by revisiting the recent international political economy (IPE) debate over the relationship between trade policy and regime type in developing countries.

cmp_io_2014.pdf cmp_io_2014_appendix.pdf
Milner, Helen V. 2014. “Introduction: The Global Economy, FDI, and the Regime for Investment”. World Politics 66 (1) : 1-11. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The world economy has maintained or enhanced its integration in the past decade even in the face of the global financial crisis. A large part of this globalization has been driven by capital flows. This symposium focuses on one element of these capital flows, foreign direct investment (FDI), and on the regime in place to safeguard and promote such investments around the globe. The articles by Allee and Peinhardt and Simmons focus on the nature and evolution of the bilateral investment treaties (BITs) that have been developed to protect such investments and that have proliferated since the 1990s. The final article, by Büthe and Milner, turns its attention to the ways in which international trade agreements affect FDI. The comparison between the investment and trade agreements is instructive, since they seem to have different effects.

FDI has become one of the most important economic flows in the global economy. It is a critical source of capital for developing countries and remains a significant source of investment in the developed world. FDI has grown in part because countries changed their policies toward it dramatically after the 1980s; governments in developing countries made unilateral policy changes that opened up markets across the globe and increased competition among countries for FDI.

Cao, Xun, et al. 2014. “Research Frontiers in Comparative and International Environmental Politics: An Introduction”. Comparative Political Studies 47 (3) : 291-308. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Given the recognition of the seriousness of climate change and other forms of environmental challenges, a growing number of political scientists are working in the environmental area. We have a substantial body of research examining local, regional, and global environmental issues. It is our sense that time is ripe for the field of international and comparative environmental politics to reflect on existing work, integrate it, and clearly articulate directions for future research. This special issue seeks to encourage scholars to systemically examine the roles of domestic and international factors, either alone or in interaction, to develop more nuanced models of environmental politics across space and time. We hope that the papers here will help to define the research frontier for the environmental politics field. Collectively, they exemplify recent efforts in comparative and international environmental politics that are, first, explanatory in orientation; second, cross levels of analysis in a way that transcends artificial subdisciplinary distinctions; and finally, are based on application of a variety of research methods and modeling techniques standard among the wider political science community.