Transatlantic dispute settlement : two-level games and the Helms-Burton Act
This empirical study examines the question of why the United States persisted in enacting unilateral sanctions during the 1990s, given the increasing constraints, particularly by the European Union, in trade and investment policy. It selects the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 as its case study, a bill that not only tightened the long-standing American embargo against Cuba, but also incorporated extraterritorial aspects that purported to regulate third countries' legitimate rights to trade with that island nation. The European Union was particularly disturbed by the bill's extraterritoriality, and took the decision to request a WTO Dispute Settlement Panel. Out of concern that their dispute may irreparably damage the fledgling WTO, Washington and Brussels embarked on lengthy bilateral negotiations that resulted in an accord that suspended the WTO panel. As the United States did not implement the requisite changes to Helms-Burton, the agreement remains inchoate. This thesis argues that Helms-Burton was a particularly ill-conceived piece of legislation. It strives to understand why the United States acted in this irrational manner by opening up the 'black box' of the state to examine internal constraints on the formation of foreign policy. Putnam's two-level game provides the analytic framework within which the thesis evaluates the simultaneous responses of domestic (Level II) and international (Level I) influences. The thesis investigates the domestic American politics that led to the passage of Helms-Burton, and the intergovernmental tensions at play in the EU's decision to request a WTO panel, both Level II. It then examines the protagonists' strategies at the Level I international bargaining table, where statesmen are simultaneously constrained by what other nations will accept and by what domestic constituencies will ratify. It concludes with an analysis of how the EU successfully overcame its Level II national preferences to ratify the agreement, whilst the US defaulted. This thesis argues that Brussels' mounting of a WTO action was crucial in bringing the United States to the negotiating table and that the EU won the greater gains in these negotiations.