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This research note hypothesizes that international agreements including a finite duration provision or with a shorter expected duration should take less time to negotiate. Using a random sample of agreements across different issue areas, it finds statistical support for this hypothesis. Agreements without a finite duration provision experienced a bargaining phase that was twice as long as agreements including a finite duration provision and otherwise short-term agreements. This result not only offers empirical support for the theoretical proposition that a longer shadow of the future leads to increased bargaining delay—it also has important policy implications. International negotiators can include a finite duration provision when they prefer a shorter bargaining phase to a potentially more durable agreement, and they can avoid this feature when they prefer a more durable agreement, although this decision comes with the cost of additional bargaining delay. By treating finite duration provisions as an independent variable, this result also addresses a critique of the research program on the rational design of international institutions that it moves backward by considering only design features as dependent variables.
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