Embracing policy innovations from abroad: the role of learning in Chile’s anti-cartel reforms

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Umut Aydin Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile

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Why and how do policymakers initially sceptical of policy innovations from abroad eventually transfer them to their own countries? Focusing on Chile’s reforms to combat business cartels in 2009 and 2016, this article answers that question. Policy diffusion and transfer literatures maintain that coercion, competition, learning or emulation could account for foreign inspirations in policymaking. However, these literatures overplay the role of coercion and emulation in policy transfer to countries in the global south, and have difficulty distinguishing between different mechanisms in empirical studies. To address these limitations, I suggest analysing three intermediate causal steps in policy transfer: first, policymakers’ motivations in initiating policy reforms, second, their reflections on how the foreign-inspired model responds to the policy problem at hand, and third, their reflections on the fit between the foreign model and domestic conditions. Through process-tracing of two anti-cartel reforms in Chile, I find that policymakers introduced foreign-inspired policy measures to combat business cartels through a process of learning from other countries and international organisations, rather than coercion or emulation. Learning was evident in three ways. First, in the initiation of the reform, as policymakers responded to a clearly identified policy problem; second, in policymakers’ careful reflection on how the foreign-inspired model responded to these problems; and third, in the adjustments made to fit the foreign model to domestic conditions. The analysis demonstrates the utility of analysing intermediate causal steps in policy transfer, and of paying more attention to local actors and political processes.

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Umut Aydin Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile

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