PUBPOL 780-002

PUBPOL 780-002: Topics in Policymaking: Negotiation of International Trade Agreements

Fall 2008
10:15-10:15 am EST
Credit Hours
International trade agreements are proliferating. By the end of the decade, there will be at least 400 such instruments in place worldwide. Some countries, like Mexico or Chile, have established very broad networks of agreements that link them to dozens of countries. The United States itself, since a few years ago, has focused its trade policy on the negotiation and implementation of agreements of this kind. Trade in itself is both a powerful tool and a controversial issue worldwide. It is not surprising, therefore, that trade agreements are also important and controversial…they inherit the discussions associated with trade, but also some others, from the philosophical to the practical, that have to do with international law. Beyond the controversy and the sometimes trivial debate, these instruments are peculiarly influential, and some of the most relevant pieces of policymaking taking place in the world today happen through these negotiations. Hence, it is worthwhile to study them and think about them. You will find many people for or against them, but it is hard to somebody who says they do not matter. I have contact with this topic from many angles. First, as an academic economist, I am mostly interested in economic growth, development and macroeconomic performance; my research indicates, and I strongly believe, that international trade is a powerful tool to enhance performance in those areas. Second, as a practicing economist and consultant, I work in a country where trade is very important. Third, and most relevant, as a policymaker I was the top official in charge of negotiating, on behalf of my country, its most important trade agreement; afterwards I led the political process, from outside government, to make this agreement a reality. I was also my country’s representative in the worldwide multilateral negotiations, an arena where Costa Rican diplomacy is very involved and active, and in that capacity I was a participant and first row witness to many of the events of the current WTO round. In this class, we will spend time on three types of trade agreements: the multilateral agreement (GATT), including the current (Doha) round of negotiations at the WTO; deep regional integration agreements (the EU and, to a lesser extent, others like Mercosur, the Central American Common Market, or CARICOM); and bilateral Free Trade Agreements, with emphasis on CAFTA, the one linking the US with the Central American nations and the Dominican Republic. We will combine the technical issues at stake, the process of negotiation itself, the politics linked to the subject, and the economic and social implications of putting the agreements in place.