Date of Award

August 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Shale Horowitz

Committee Members

Natasha Sugiyama, Steven Redd, Dave Armstrong, Johannes Britz


Free Trade Agreements, Interest Groups, KORUS FTA, National Security, Northeast Asia, Sectoral Approach


Over the course of three essays, this dissertation examines three important questions regarding free trade agreements (FTAs) in China, Japan, and South Korea (CJK), the three main economies of Northeast Asia: Under what conditions are CJK most likely to establish an FTA? Which factors most significantly influenced U.S. Congressional voting on the Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA)? Is the establishment of a multilateral FTA among China, Japan, and South Korea (a CJK FTA) possible and, if so, what is the optimal path towards achieving it? In answering these questions, the cumulative findings indicate that an FTA is the result of sectoral and national security politics rather than a calculation based on economic optimality.

The first essay finds that CJK are most likely to establish an FTA when politically potent industry interest groups (IIGs) favor it. This study also finds that the impacts of FTA determinants vary depending on what stage the FTA formation process is in. For example, political institutions are likely to influence FTA formation in the initial stages but are prone to lose their influence as the process moves forward. In the final stage, support from IIGs is the driving force. Another significant finding is that political leaders are likely to choose their FTA partners in the context of national security politics.

As the first empirical analysis of US Congressional voting on the KORUS FTA, the major findings of the second essay indicate that constituent interest was a highly significant predictor of US legislators' voting. Moreover, constituent interests play a more significant role in the House of Representatives rather than the Senate. National security considerations were also found to greatly influence legislators' voting.

The third study mainly finds that, although the two possible bilateral FTAs (a China-Korea FTA or Japan-Korea FTA) are more feasible than a CJK FTA, neither is likely to serve as a stepping-stone to multilateral FTA formation. Consequently, a multilateral path is optimal, and therefore, CJK should simultaneously participate in a single round of trade negotiations in order to establish a multilateral FTA.