The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a regulatory agency within the United States (US) federal government. To ensure consumer health, the FDA has been responsible for inspecting domestic food facilities within the US throughout modern American history. Since 2008, the FDA's regulatory mandate has extended overseas, with the stationing of inspectors abroad. These inspectors intrusively oversee the increasingly globalized US food supply chain stretching around the world. As of 2013, the FDA inspectors have conducted inspections of registered foreign food facilities more than 5,000 times in 61 countries. It has also set up several foreign offices in Asia, Latin America, Europe, Africa and Middle East. Why are these inspectors enforcing US domestic food safety standards in foreign countries?
This anomalous pattern of US inspectors overseeing food safety standards within borders of foreign governments is best conceived as a form of ``extraterritoriality.'' My dissertation explains this emerging US-led extraterritoriality with three general theoretical claims in chapter 2. First, food safety is a policy area in which government regulators persistently intervene because it has distributional impacts on private producers and consumers. Second, a government regulator can credibly assure consumers of food safety in international trade when its domestic political institutions empower consumers; by contrast, when domestic political institutions are biased against consumers, the government regulator cannot make it. Third, the political approval of a pro-consumer government regulator's extraterritorial regulation comes with a greater reciprocal access to its domestic market, thus giving foreign producers and their governments positive selective incentives to support the extraterritorial regulation.
I adopt a mixed-method approach to validate three general theoretical claims empirically. Chapter 3 qualitatively demonstrates that government regulators have been persistently intervening in food safety governance throughout history. Moreover, it shows that policymakers are well aware of distributional impacts of food safety on private producers and consumers. Chapter 4 experimentally shows that the US FDA can more credibly assure consumers of the safety of food in the US-China bilateral food trade than its Chinese equivalent in two coordinated surveys of American and Chinese citizens. This is consistent with my second claim about credibility. Chapter 5 constructs an interrupted time-series quasi-experiment to show that the foreign approval of US extraterritorial regulation comes with a greater reciprocal access to the US domestic market, giving foreign government regulators incentives to accept US inspectors beyond borders. This supports my third theoretical claim about reciprocity.
Together, my dissertation makes two contributions to the field of international relations. First, it is the first systematic study on food safety, which has not been explored in previous research on world politics. Second, in order to explain the anomalous extraterritorial governance of food safety, it develops a revised open-economy politics approach to global governance that more closely integrate international political dynamics into models rooted in domestic politics.