In the past decade, issues of trade policy have become increasingly contentious in the European Union (EU) and its member states. While trade could traditionally be described as a technocratic policy field dominated by expert negotiators and industrial lobbyists, recent years have seen far-reaching civil society mobilization and contentious parliamentary and (social) media debates about agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, and – most recently – the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement. This growing contestedness of international trade is not restricted to the EU and its current member states. It could also be witnessed in the Brexit debates in the United Kingdom and – on the other side of the Atlantic – in United States President Donald Trump’s attacks against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the World Trade Organization.
In the light of these developments, it has become important, for scholars and policy makers alike, to understand the politics – and not just policy – of international trade: Which factors make some trade agreements politically contentious, while others hardly register in public debates? Which provisions become flashpoints of contestation, and why? Which types of actors and discourses drive mobilization? How will politicization influence EU policy making as it seeks to address current challenges, which include negotiating a new trade relationship with the UK, settling trade disputes with the US, finding a response to the growing influence and assertiveness of China, salvaging the multilateral trading system, and integrating the European Green Deal into the common commercial policy.
The Jean Monnet Network on Transatlantic Trade Politics addresses these questions with a particular focus on trade relationships across the North Atlantic. The network brings together five universities, from Europe and North America, whose scholars possess recognized expertise on European and international trade, including its politicization: Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada), the University of Antwerp (Belgium), Paris Lodron University of Salzburg (Austria), the University of Warwick (UK), and Bates College (Lewiston/Maine, US). The network builds on previous research cooperation between many of the participating scholars.
The Jean Monnet Network will engage in a broad range of activities to further research, teaching, and outreach to non-academic constituencies:
(a) Research: The network will hold six research-oriented workshops, which will facilitate the sharing of research findings, generate new forms of cooperation, and produce high-quality scholarly publications. It will organize short-term research exchanges between the participating universities, which benefit both established scholars and emerging researchers (especially PhD students).
(b) Teaching: The network will organize a summer school on transatlantic relations, aimed at advanced undergraduates and master’s students, and virtual links between classrooms at the participating universities. These activities will deepen students’ knowledge of transatlantic relations (including trade issues), help build their professional networks, and reinforce mutual understanding and insights.
(c) Outreach: The network will engage in activities that make research findings relevant to policy makers, business, and civil society. It will organize two workshops for policy makers, and will produce brochures, policy briefs, and audio-visual material that will be available as open educational resources.
By establishing scholarly connections between researchers and shared educational environments for students, the network will promote scholarly knowledge on the politics of international trade, particularly in the EU, and will help shape a new generation of experts, who will be in a position, both inside and outside academia, to promote transatlantic understanding in their future teaching, research and professional careers. The outcomes and added value of the network will be measurable in the publication output of participating researchers, the number of students exposed to transnational connections, the presence of network-related content in their term papers and theses/dissertations, as well in the presence of network scholars and publications in European and North American policy, business, and media discourse.