comparative politics international relations Japan-related research

JPOSS #5 “Advisors or Agents? Bureaucratic Structure and the Politics of Trade Protection”

The fifth session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on October 15, 2020. Christina Davis (Harvard) chaired the seminar and moderated the question and answer session.

Diana Stanescu (Harvard University) presented an overview of her doctoral thesis, “Advisors or Agents? Bureaucratic Structure and the Politics of Trade Protection.” In her presentation, Stanescu explored an important player in trade politics that extant studies have tended to overlook–namely, bureaucrats. Leveraging WTO reports, her research introduces an original time-series cross-sectional data-set that measures the institutional design of state bureaucracies engaged in trade policy covering 135 countries for over a 20 year period. Stanescu empirically tests the effect of bureaucracies on non-tariff barriers – a form of administered protection. She finds 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. Stanescu also presented findings from a case study of Japan to illustrate her argument’s causal mechanism.

Consistent with job talk formats at many post-secondary institutions, this practice job talk allowed the presenter to engage in a lively discussion with various audience members on the substance of her research. The question and answer session that followed Stanescu’s presentation raised questions about the impact that bureaucrats have on trade policy in general but especially in the Japanese context. The audience also provided many constructive suggestions pertaining to theory and research methods.

This event attracted over thirty participants and produced an engaging Q&A session. The organizers would like to thank the presenter, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: