Transformations in Global Economic Governance: Integration via Free Trade Agreements

Lead Research Organisation: Keele University
Department Name: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences


The seminar series aims to generate new research, create networks, foster capacity building and user engagement by providing an interdisciplinary forum for debate and discussion on: (a) the regulatory, economic and social aspects of regional integration through FTAs; (b) what FTAs bring to partner countries; and (c) the current state of play in FTA activity in the EU, USA and Asia. By providing a wide geographical spread of seminars that focus on specific themes of regional trading agreements, its effects and the move towards a common regulatory framework, we propose to engage with academics, early career and established researchers from all over the world to create new research networks and build on existing works as well as engage with and bring together stakeholders, i.e. policy makers, small and medium sized businesses and civil society groups, that have an interest in FTAs being negotiated in and by Asia, EU and America.

Broadly the seminar series focuses on: first, understanding the rationales behind FTAs and how the EU, USA and Asian FTAs interact with one another; second, how FTAs under negotiation could affect the policy choices of governments and business environments around the globe; and third, gaining a comprehensive overview of how the move to common regulatory systems under bilateral FTAs are likely to determine future rules of global trade governance.

Seminar 1 highlights the general trends in FTAs. Main issues for discussion include: rationale for growing FTAs, and the recent developments that provide momentum for countries to negotiate FTAs. How are the EU and USA driving FTA negotiations in Asia? What are the economic and social impacts of FTAs? Is the internal and external environment important in setting trade policy agenda? Are the dynamics of negotiations driven by constructivist or neo-realist framework of international relations? (Seminar venue: Keele)

Seminar 2 looks at the EU's rationale for negotiating FTAs with Asia and USA. This includes a discussion on social, economic, political, geo-political and political economy aspects of FTAs, and how trading agreements are an integral part of 'Global Europe' strategy and foreign policy. (Seminar venue: London)

Seminar 3 offers a comprehensive analysis of Asian FTAs, its rationale, and comments on factors that drive FTA negotiations in the region. This sheds light on the growing inter-linkages between Asian and European global production networks, and comments why India unlike (China and ASEAN) has not been able to benefit from regional value chains. It also addresses the questions as to how can Indian firms integrate into FTA production chain activity? (Seminar venue: New Delhi)

Seminar 4 looks at the state of play of ongoing bilateral FTA talks between EU and USA. The seminars takes stock of the current state of negotiations and comments on contentious issues that have emerged in ongoing talks. This also examines how and why the Transatlantic Partnership is driven by aim of eventual regulatory convergence between the trading partners. (Seminar venue: Bath)

Seminar 5 evaluates EU and US FTAs including those with Asian countries, commenting on areas of differences/commonalities in FTAs negotiated and the general move towards regulatory convergence/divergence. This provides a comprehensive, comparative and systematic research on the scope and enforceability of regulatory norms negotiated under FTAs. The seminar also highlights the importance of labour and social standards within FTAs and the relevance of addressing these issues within the context of global trade governance. (Seminar venue: Brussels)

Seminar 6 examine the emerging dynamics of FTAs, debates whether such agreements can be a stepping stone to future multilateral liberalisation or whether this could lead to fragmentation in world trade. It also comments on what role the EU and USA play as global actors in shaping a functioning multilateral order. (Seminar venue: London)

Planned Impact

The seminar series and outputs will benefit three distinct groups of stakeholders:
1. Policy-makers, particularly EU trade negotiators and policy-makers, as well as EU Member States' policy-makers
2. Civil society groups and think tanks
3. European business community, especially SMEs and European Business Associations

Policy-makers will be able to refine future policies and negotiating strategies on the basis of the knowledge generated throughout the seminar series, with an emphasis on the understudied business and social consequences of economic integration through FTAs.

Civil society groups, including environmental groups, trade unions, NGOs, community groups, consumer groups will have access to the same information as policy-makers regarding the benefits and pitfalls of economic integration, thus broadening their perspectives on these matters and enabling them to enhance their engagement in the policy-making process. Further, the findings will feed into think tanks work on FTAs.

Businesses, especially SMEs, are the stated targets of economic integration policies. However, they often lack the knowledge and resources to follow developments in FTAs and take advantage of new market access and trade facilitation measures that have been negotiated by policy-makers. Thus, the seminar series will transfer up-to-date information on FTAs and business practices to SMEs.

After each seminar, a brief indicating the main discussions and their conclusions will be prepared by the PI and CO-I, and published on the project website. Participants will be asked to facilitate updated bibliography on register their projects (if any) on the project website so that resources are readily available to the policy makers, practitioners, academics, and the general public.

The list below provides an overview of some government and non-government organisations which have been identified as having a potential interest in the findings of this seminar series as well as in the (further) activities generated in and by the website:
Government agencies: Department of Trade and Investment; European Commission Trade directorate, trade negotiators of USA, EU and Asian countries.
Institutions: European Commission DG Trade, European Parliament International Trade Committee, ECIPE, Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade & Negotiations. Centre for Sciences Humaines in New Delhi, which is a French government institution for research, has expressed a keen interest in the seminar series and has offered to provide local assistance in hosting the seminar in New Delhi (in June 2015). This highlights the significance of our seminar series for businesses and the wider academic community in Asia.
NGOs: OXFAM (UK); FRIDE (Belgium); CUTS (India); Medecins sans Frontiers (France); WIDE-Network (Netherlands).
Business Associations: Confederation of British Industries; Business Europe; EuroChambres; AmCham; European Services Association; Asian Business Federations.


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Kaur S (2020) Is There Any Potential in Service Trade of South Asia? in Foreign Trade Review

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Khorana S (2016) India and the Indian Ocean region in Journal of the Indian Ocean Region

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/M002586/1 31/12/2014 31/07/2015 £28,411
ES/M002586/2 Transfer ES/M002586/1 01/08/2015 31/03/2017 £20,972
Description The seminar series has successfully achieved its aims of generating new research, creating networks, fostering capacity building and user engagement by providing an interdisciplinary forum for debate and discussion on: (a) Regulatory, economic and social aspects of regional integration through FTAs (free trade agreements); (b) What FTAs bring to partner countries; (c) Current state of play in FTA activity in the EU, USA and Asia; (d) Changing landscape of UK trade policy.

Main findings from this ESRC funded research seminar series can be classified under the following categories:
1. Role of business choices and international/regional supply and value chains in FTAs: The sessions highlighted the importance of value chains in altering the politics of trade policy, with new sectors of the economy adding pressure for the negotiation of FTAs, such as import-dependent businesses (be it retail or for further processing for export), particularly in the case of negotiations with Asian states (Eckhardt and Poletti). The importance of supply and value chains is also present in determining the motivation for the inclusion of controversial investment chapters in trade agreements, as the international nature of production and value chains has led to greater diversification of firms' investments and a desire for guarantees when dealing with states with less robust regulatory systems (Bruhn). The literature on FTA formation has taken a broadly macro-approach to the subject focusing on state-level rationales for entering into FTAs. Domestic pressures have typically been conceptualised as a contestation between pro-liberalisation exporters and anti-liberalisation non-exporting sectors, however the discussions at the workshops have shown the need to refine explanations by incorporating micro-level analysis of how corporate decisions and the changed nature of production, supply and value chains is creating new incentives for the negotiation of FTAs.

2. Role of private corporations and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), private standards & consumer activism: Much of the existing research on FTAs has placed the state (or organisations with state-like attributes like the European Union) at the centre of the analysis. Policy-makers too, have concentrated on negotiating international trade standards, be it multilaterally at the World Trade Organization (WTO) or at the regional or bilateral level through myriad legal trade agreements. Research seminar series presentations revealed the limitations of labour standards in FTAs to achieve genuine changes on the ground in terms of labour rights. This derives variously from the fact that in many cases labour clauses in FTAs are promotional (EU, New Zealand, Canada) rather than legally enforceable (Gammage, Martinez-Zarzoso, Van der Putte and Orbie); and the challenges of monitoring the application of agreements and labour rights conditions on the ground. Novel research presented at the Seminar on Central American banana and pineapple industry reveals that producers on the ground have various approaches to improve working conditions, although these are often linked to the employer rather than to institutionalised rules. More crucially, producers are focusing their attention on gaining certification from private standard setting bodies (e.g. Fair Trade, environmental certification) that can facilitate their access to international supply chains, rather than standards agreed through FTAs (be these bilateral standards or following international standards such as those set out by the ILO) (Martens). Presentations of the effects of free trade agreements by developed states on developing states of the Commonwealth reiterated the dangerous potential of FTAs diverting trade away from developing states and reducing their international competitiveness (Vickers). Developing states are also more concerned with remaining within international supply chains, and as demands for sustainably sourced products increases in the developed world, developing states, at the behest of international corporations, are working towards achieving higher labour and environmental standards on the ground to attain the levels required by private certification bodies. The interesting conclusion of these discussions is that while states (especially the EU) is especially committed to improving standards through free trade agreements, changes are being instigated by markets rather than international regulations. Consumer demand, greater pressure on corporations to behave in more sustainable manners (crystallised in CSR charters) and the fear of being left out of supply networks is having a greater impact on the ground. The challenge, for us, therefore, is to conceptualise how these levels of governance interact, and whether private certification standards and private actors in the market can ensure the sustainability of improved labour and environmental standards. 3. Need to adapt to changing world and to rise of the so-called emerging powers and their preferences: A common theme that transpired in all discussions and all panels is that FTAs are being negotiated in the backdrop of changes in the relative power of actors in the international arena. The EU and USA no longer leverage the same asymmetrical power vis-à-vis other large economies, especially in Asia. They have become interdependent with many of these economies, and trade and investment negotiations with these partners are therefore proving more challenging than in past negotiations with states heavily dependent on the EU and USA for their trade. There is strong evidence that the European Union is adapting to this new reality already, with moves towards bilateral negotiations (Meissner, Schade) to exploit greater leverage in negotiations and to favour quicker resolution of negotiations than would be the case in interregional negotiations. The attitude and strategies of EU negotiators in other negotiations, where the negotiators are also 'selling' the counterpart's position back to the increasing number of stakeholders and veto players within the EU (e.g. explaining how India has been making accommodations on political clauses to the European Parliament), is already taking into account this more complex world (Frennhoff-Larsen).

4. The lasting legacy of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) controversies: Discussions covered the controversial Trade and Investment Partnership currently under negotiation between the European Union and USA. Apart from the complex challenges of reaching some sort of regulatory convergence in several issues where approaches vary greatly, participants highlighted the increased challenge civil society opposition to the negotiations is posing. The question discussed focussed on whether the level of activity and commitment can be sustained or whether it will wane as in previous occasions, although the crucial point lies in the fact the increased comprehensiveness of FTAs and their intrusion in other ambits of regulation and policy has pitted competing visions of state-market-society relations against each other (Siles-Brugge). As this normative conflict is unlikely to disappear, policy-makers would be wise to take this into account when designing policies and trade negotiation strategies. The broader implications of TTIP and its 'game-changing' potential in terms of economic integration and governance and the future of FTAs was probed further at the 4th Workshop in the Seminar series at the University of Bath on 28-29 January 2016.

5. Effects of TTIP negotiations: Discussions reflected how TTIP polarised public opinion. Moreover, what is being contested goes beyond issues relating to the content of the negotiations (e.g. possible acceptance of different and/or lower food safety standards, inclusion of dispute settlement mechanisms between investors and states), but crucially it is the process itself that is being questioned. If there are concerns about input legitimacy (whose voices are being heard and heeded to), process legitimacy is also being contested (Smith). TTIP negotiations have already altered some past customs and processes in international negotiations. For instance, in response to public outcry regarding the secrecy of negotiations, for the first time in a negotiation, the European Commission has opted to publish its positions and make various texts available.
More importantly, the process of negotiations, itself, is already having an effect on regulations, as new legislation being drafted in the EU is already taking into account possible future incompatibilities (European Stability Mechanism, includes some investor-state dispute settlement arrangements already), so that once a deal is finally negotiated, it can be claimed that it changes EU regulations very little, and therefore assuage dissent (Papadopoulus). This is especially relevant for the European side, as US regulators have been adamant (especially the US Treasury) in rejecting interference with their processes, rather than understanding European processes, and are pressured by USA firms to extend the American model of business participation in legislation rather using already existing opportunities (Egan).

6. Brexit and post Brexit trade policy scenario: Main findings were: (a) Negotiations with EU are likely to be lengthier than estimated EU FTA negotiations last on average four years. The deal with Canada took 7 years. Increasingly, the European Parliament and national parliaments (when applicable) are flexing their muscles in the ratification process, lengthening the process, as with the EU-Canada agreement in 2016. Further, given that the EU attempts to have a certain degree of coherence across all its trade agreements, this can lengthen negotiations, as matters unrelated to the negotiation at hand, but of concern for future negotiations can 'pollute' negotiations. The importance of sequencing and timing is key. A clear and detailed sense of the future relationship of the UK with the EU and its single market is necessary prior to undertaking FTA negotiations with other partners, to ascertain what the negotiating position and possible trade-offs will be with others. Another finding was that negotiating post-Brexit FTAs may not be as simple as envisaged. The UK will lack the large market that the EU and USA leverage in FTA negotiations to gain concessions from partners and impose their preferences. At the same time, as the world's fifth largest economy, the UK should be open to losing it predominance as trading partner and seeing that there is a threat perceived by the partners to certain economic sectors so much so that the trading partners may be reluctant to negotiate at existing terms and open their markets to UK competition through FTAs. The UK will have to have a development focussed strategy post Brexit. The government will have to initiate steps towards extending continued preferential access to the UK market to developing states, by firstly investigating what legislative and bureaucratic procedures would be required in partner countries to implement an agreement with the UK that is the same or similar in content to existing agreements between the EU and developing states, so as to prevent a hiatus. Another findings was that supply chains are at risk, if trade between the EU and UK is disrupted or lowers as a result of Brexit (e.g. fair trade chocolate produced in continental Europe).
Exploitation Route The findings are increasingly finding use at various levels as evidenced by the recent Impact (DIT, Scottish Parliament) in 2017 and 2018.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy,Other

Description Firstly, I was invited to present work on trade agreements within the context of Brexit entitled 'Negotiating Prosperity: How will the UK-EU relationship affect UK Exports?' at Policy UK Forum event in London on 28 November 2017. Secondly, I was invited to be a member of Trade and Development Expert Advisory Group which is a forum at the Department for International Trade (DIT) for discussion on strategic issues, concerns and priorities across trade and development policy. The Group aims to provide update on progress of related business and provide views and input on priority policy areas. Finally, I was invited to provide evidence on UK's Trade Bill at the Scottish Parliament on 21 Feb 2018 following on from my trade agreements related work program.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description 'Handbook on European Union Trade Policy' 
Organisation University of Bath
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We (Co I and PI) in partnership with University of Ghent developed the idea to co-edit a book entitled 'Handbook on European Union Trade Policy', for which we contacted Edward Elgar publishers.
Collaborator Contribution The co-edited book draws on expertise of various workshop participants, and will be published in 2017.
Impact The 'Handbook on European Union Trade Policy' includes a holistic vision of trade policy from a political, economic and legal perspective, taking advantage of the multidisciplinary character of the network and workshops. It also focuses on some areas that have been highlighted in discussions as problematic in current research: the effect of Lisbon Treaty changes in the internal politics and implantation of EU trade policy; and the effect of the financial crisis and changes in global economic power dynamics on the way third parties interact with the European Union's trade negotiators.
Start Year 2015
Description 'Handbook on European Union Trade Policy' 
Organisation University of Ghent
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We (Co I and PI) in partnership with University of Ghent developed the idea to co-edit a book entitled 'Handbook on European Union Trade Policy', for which we contacted Edward Elgar publishers.
Collaborator Contribution The co-edited book draws on expertise of various workshop participants, and will be published in 2017.
Impact The 'Handbook on European Union Trade Policy' includes a holistic vision of trade policy from a political, economic and legal perspective, taking advantage of the multidisciplinary character of the network and workshops. It also focuses on some areas that have been highlighted in discussions as problematic in current research: the effect of Lisbon Treaty changes in the internal politics and implantation of EU trade policy; and the effect of the financial crisis and changes in global economic power dynamics on the way third parties interact with the European Union's trade negotiators.
Start Year 2015
Description Khorana, S. (ed.) (2015) The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Negotiations between the EU and the USA: Caught between myth and reality? 
Organisation Barcelona Centre for International Affairs
Country Spain 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The PI edited this book on ongoing EU-US Trade talks. This follows on from an event hosted by CIDOB to discuss about TTIP agreement.
Collaborator Contribution The session opened with a key-note speech from Mr. Shaun Donnelly, Vice President of Investment and Financial Services of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB). Mr. Donnelly expressed the point of view of the US. He remarked that there is need to negotiate a high standard agreement without leaving anything outside the table or the effort is not worth it. In his opinion, the TTIP is still in the early stages of the negotiation and they are being difficult because both the US and the EU are used to be in charge. He also highlighted that the reason of the agreement is growth and jobs but it is not politically viable for Europe to demand European standards in all the issues although he affirmed that the TTIP is not about lowering standards. He also defended the need to have arbitration for protecting investments and gave the arguments that normally governments win; and that letting national justice to settle disputes between governments and investors would be the same as having a football match between two countries and have a referee of any of the two countries; normally the referee is from a third country to have neutrality. Finally, Mr. Donnelly defended that small and medium size companies will benefit more from the agreement than big companies; and that TTIP will allow the EU and the US to set global standards in the 21st Century. After the key-note speech, the first panel was about the main novelties of the TTIP. The panel was moderated by Xavier Mas de Xaxàs, journalist from La Vanguardia. The first intervention was in charge of Álvaro Schweinfurth, CEOE's Deputy Director of the Foreign Policy and Multilateral Relations Department. He discussed the impact of the TTIP on competitiveness and innovation arguing that the agreement could be both: an adrenalin boost for jobs and growth in countries, like Spain for instance, where that is much needed; and an opportunity to cooperate for future technology. Then followed Professor Christian Teitje from Halle University on the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which is the most controversial aspect of the TTIP. He touched on issues identified under the TTIP: the protection of the right to regulate; the establishment and functioning of arbitral tribunals; the relationship between domestic judicial systems and ISDS; and the review of ISDS decisions through an appellate mechanism. Dr. Richard Craven from Northumbria University was the next panelist. He touched the issue of public procurement highlighting that the EU and the US have incredibly complex systems underpinned by different objectives and limited openness; leaving the possibility for the TTIP to go beyond the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) in terms of scope and coverage. Similarly, Gregory Voss from the Toulouse Business School talked about furthering the Digital European Agenda in public procurement. He argued that the TTIP could mean the creation of an e-procurement platform to deal with issues like security, privacy and confidentiality. The last speaker of this panel was Lorand Bartels from University of Cambridge. He talked about EU's approach to social standards and TTIP. He explained that the Human Rights clause, included in Free Trade Agreements (FTA) signed by the EU, may become a problem when the other part is the US which is not a developing country. There should be solutions to sort this out with the problem for the EU to set a precedent. Next panel was moderated by Cristina Manzano, Editor-in-Chief of ESGlobal. It was opened by Lars Nilsson, Deputy Head of the Chief Economist and Trade Analysis Unit from the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission. He defended the Commission's position, answered back the critics of the lack of transparency and democracy in the elaboration of the TTIP and highlighted the benefits the TTIP will have for the EU but also for third-countries when reducing regulatory barriers. Then followed Inmaculada Martínez-Zarzoso from the Georg-August Universitaet Goettingen. She talked about labor provisions. The US has lower standards in labor provisions than the EU and the TTIP is an opportunity to balance labor standards on the top if this issue is included in the negotiations. Finally, Ricard Bellera, Secretary for International Affairs, Migration and Cooperation of Comisiones Obreras of Catalonia (CCOO), positioned himself against the TTIP highlighting that the EU still has to deepen in its internal market; and that EU is not cohesive enough to withstand an agreement of such characteristics, especially taken into account that countries as Spain does not invest enough in innovation as other countries in the EU do. After the end of the second panel, Dr. Sangeeta Khorana rounded up the conclusions of the intense sessions and closed the seminar.
Impact The monograph entitled "The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Negotiations between the EU and the USA: Caught between myth and reality" was published in May 2015.
Start Year 2015
Description The Changing Landscape of Trade and UK 
Organisation Commonwealth Secretariat
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This is a co-edited book that examines how trade landscape is likely to change following Brexit. I am discussing the final shape of collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat. The Trade Adviser for Secretariat is visiting the PI in Bournemouth on 20 March 2017 to finalise the book that will come from this partnership.
Collaborator Contribution The Commonwealth Secretariat is a partner, and Trade Adviser Dr Brendan Vickers is a co-editor of the book with the PI. The e-book will consist of a series of chapters that address the main issues around the UK's negotiation of free trade agreements, and how the negotiations to withdraw from the EU is likely to unfold in the context of Brexit.
Impact This is working progress and the result will be an e-book. It will be an interdisciplinary work, focussing on International Relations, Political Economy, International Trade and International Trade Law.
Start Year 2017