PUAF 700: U.S. Trade: Policy and Politics

Publication Date: 
September 2015
Publication File: 
Document Type: 
President Obama’s first term saw little action on trade policy–other priorities dominated. The second term has proved the opposite. Early this summer, the President–allied with Congressional Republicans–won a tough fight for Trade Promotion Authority, which the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office is now deploying to complete agreement on a comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with eleven nations. Obama further broadened the trade agenda by announcing, in early 2013, his decision to embark on a parallel, comprehensive free-trade agreement with the European Union, dubbed the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Last and perhaps not least, he rejuvinated his negotiating team by naming a strong new USTR, Michael Froman, to head these efforts. The United States possesses the world’s largest economy, and remains the most important force in global trade, China notwithstanding. So US trade policies have huge impact on the world economic order. But they are driven primarily by US domestic processes and politics. This course treats the politics, economics, and laws shaping United States trade policy, including:
  • the internationalization of the American economy;
  • the simultaneous US engagement in global, regional, and bilateral trade negotiations;
  • the shaky political base for such negotiations, and the process for managing them;
  • the huge (and persistent) US trade deficit–its causes and effects;
  • the impact of the World Trade Organization (and stalemate in the Doha Round);
  • the US trade relationship with China; and
  • the broad controversy over “globalization.”
The course is divided into two unequal parts. The first ten weeks (Part I) aim to provide students a solid grounding in the major elements and issues of US trade policy. At the eleventh class session there is an exam, which will count for roughly 60 percent of students' final grades. Thereafter, in Part II, the final four weeks, we will move beyond the American trade policy context to books which offer broader, comparative vantagepoints on trade policy and institutions, and the global economy.