Why do some governments participate more actively in the enforcement of international law than others? In the context of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)/World Trade Organization (WTO), I argue that domestic institutions – and, specifically, the electoral rule – can account for these differences. Interest groups are frequently harmed when foreign governments violate international law and have compliance information, but they lack access to formal enforcement mechanisms, such as dispute settlement bodies. I identify two complementary effects of domestic institutions. Where domestic institutions increase the government’s responsiveness to interest groups, the government is more likely to enforce international law on their behalf. In turn, because they expect that rule violations are more likely to be enforced, interest groups are more willing to contribute to the monitoring of international law. Hence, interest groups are more likely to provide the information necessary for enforcement, and governments are more likely to be aware of rule violations and to provide enforcement. Empirical evidence from the GATT/WTO is consistent with these propositions.
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