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compliance, World Trade Organization, WTO, executive branch, Congress, U.S. compliance behavior, empirical research


In studies of compliance with international law, the focus is usually on the “demand side” – that is, how to increase the pressure on the state to comply. Less attention has been paid, however, to the consequences of the “supply side” – who within the state is responsible for the compliance. This Article is the first study to systematically address the issue of how different actors within the United States government alter national policy in response to the violations of international law. The Article does so by examining cases initiated under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU). This Article presents empirical evidence that who within the government must supply compliance is the most important factor in explaining both whether and when the United States government complies with WTO rulings, even after controlling for important characteristics of the state filing the request and the political importance of the affected industry. These results demonstrate that understanding the domestic supply of compliance is a critical, if neglected, aspect of international law theory. The results also highlight how the dominant “unitary actor” model (adopted by international law scholars to explain compliance) obscures important causal pathways in the compliance process. This Article opens up a new and rich field of study into what makes international law effective or ineffective.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

World Trade Organization, Foreign trade regulation, United States. Congress, Executive power