Sinking in the Hooks: Technical Standards and De Facto Aid Tying in ODA Infrastructure Projects


The practice of tying aid – attaching conditions which force procurement from the donor country – is widely regarded as negative, with the OECD noting how the practice can increase costs and reduce the freedom of recipients to procure goods and services from other countries. Indeed, since 1979, the practice of aid tying has declined significantly, from more than 50% among DAC members to just 10-20% in the 2010s. However, despite these promising headline figures, aid can still be "tied" via more subtle mechanisms which, intentionally or not, privilege the private sector of the donor nation and reduce value and freedom of choice for recipients. This paper utilises Japanese high-speed rail projects in India and Vietnam as case studies, conducting life-cycle analyses of these projects to examine areas where the use of Japanese technical and industrial standards will reduce competition and reduce the freedom of choice for the recipient countries to seek non-Japanese suppliers or develop native alternatives. The paper argues that technical standards "sink in the hooks", creating a de facto tying effect which, while not technically binding on recipients, has much the same impact as formal tied aid in the long term. The paper ultimately concludes that further internationalisation of aid – the incorporation of third countries into bilateral aid flows and advocacy for the universality of technical standards where possible – will ultimately make international aid more sustainable, providing better value for recipient countries by reducing their long-term reliance on the economies of single bilateral donors.

Author Information
James Kaizuka, University of Leeds, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ACSS2023
Stream: Globalization and Internationalization

This paper is part of the ACSS2023 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Kaizuka J. (2023) Sinking in the Hooks: Technical Standards and De Facto Aid Tying in ODA Infrastructure Projects ISSN: 2186-2303 – The Asian Conference on the Social Sciences 2023: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon