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Reforming U.S. Preferential Trade Agreements

As multilateral trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization have stalled, the U.S. government has actively pursued a policy of “competitive liberalization,” negotiating preferential trade agreements (or free trade agreements – FTAs) and bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with a wide range of countries. NAFTA serves as the model for such agreements, and most vary little from the expansive NAFTA template. The United States has signed BITs with many countries and has negotiated FTAs in recent years with, among others, Central America and the Dominican Republic, Peru, Chile, and most recently Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. The U.S. government has also initiated negotiations on the most ambitious FTA since NAFTA, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which involves nine Pacific Rim countries.

Based on GDAE’s long-running research on the Lessons from NAFTA and its work on Reforming U.S. Investment Policy, the institute has provided critical analysis of these treaties. GDAE’s research suggests the need for deep reform of U.S. trade policies, which remain largely unchanged under the Obama Administration.

Key Publications

Trading Down: Unemployment, Inequality and Other Risks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Jeronim Capaldo, Alex Izurieta, and Jomo Kwame Sundaram, GDAE Working Paper 16-01, January 2016

Trade Agreements and the Land: Investment Agreements and Their Potential Impacts on Land Governance, Rachel Thrasher, Dario Bevilacqua, and Jeronim Capaldo, GDAE Background Paper, October 14, 2015.

The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: European Disintegration, Unemployment and Instability, Jeronim Capaldo, GDAE Working Paper 14-03, October 2014

The Clash of Globalizations: Essays on the Political Economy of Trade and Development Policy
, Kevin P. Gallagher, Anthem Press, July 2013

Trading Away Stability and Growth: United States Trade Agreements in Latin America, by Kevin P. Gallagher, PERI Working Paper No. 266, September, 2011.

Trading Away Financial Stability in Colombia: Capital Controls and the US-Colombia Trade Agreement, by Kevin P. Gallagher, Latin American Trade Network Brief 66, April 2011.

Reforming United States trade and investment treaties for financial stability: The case of capital controls, by Kevin P. Gallagher, International Institute for Sustainable Development Investment Treaty News, April 5, 2011.

Reforming U.S. FTAs for Environmental Protection: Lessons from Mexico and Beyond, by Kevin P. Gallagher, in A New Trade Policy for the United States: Lessons from Latin America, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, September 2010.

"Policy Space to Prevent and Mitigate Financial Crises in Global Trade and Investment Agreements,” by Kevin P. Gallagher, UNCTAD/G-24 Discussion Paper, 2010.

Capital Controls and Trade Agreements, United Nations G-24,  Policy Brief No. 55.

"U.S. BITs and Financial Stability," by Kevin P. Gallagher, Vale Columbia Center Policy Brief #19, February 2010.

“21st Century Trade Agreements: Implications for Long-Run Development Policy” by Rachel Denae Thrasher and Kevin P. Gallagher, The Pardee Papers, No. 2, The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, September 2008.

"Do Investment Agreements Attract Investment? Evidence from Latin America," by Kevin P. Gallagher and Melissa B.L. Birch, Journal of World Investment and Trade v7, no6., December 2006.

Commentary and Analysis

TTIP vs. Climate Policy: What is at Risk? Frank Ackerman, Globalization Commentary, December 1, 2015 (Also available in German)

Trading Away Land Rights, Rachel Thrasher and Timothy A. Wise, Triple Crisis Blog, October 14, 2015

Tim Wise on TRNN"Everyone But China" Agreement Prevents Regulation of Hot Money and Speculation
Kevin Gallagher speaks with The Real News Network about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He argues that th TPP, an everyone but China agreement, would make it illegal for countries to regulate the flow of hot money and speculation. (March 18, 2013)

Don’t trade away financial stability in Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreeement, Kevin P. Gallagher, Financial Times, March 6, 2013

IMF May Be on Collision Course with Trade Policy, by Kevin P. Gallagher, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, December 14, 2012

Romney’s Latin American Trade Plan: The Devil is in the Detail, Kevin P Gallagher, Americas Quarterly Blog, October 29, 2012

Mexico: Always Promising, by Kevin P. Gallagher, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, October 11, 2012

Trade rules should not constrain fixing global finance, Kevin P. Gallagher, Al Jazeera, September 26, 2012

Tired of Waiting for a 21st Century Trade Agreement: Developing Countries, the TPP, and Regulating Cross Border Finance, Kevin P. Gallagher, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, June 13, 2012 

Not a Great Deal for Asia,by Kevin P. Gallagher, The American Prospect, March 13, 2012.

100 Economists Call for Trans-Pacific Trade Deal to Allow Capital Controls, by Kevin P. Gallagher, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, February 28, 2012.

"Will the U.S.-Colombia FTA benefit Colombia? No" by Kevin P. Gallagher, America’s Quarterly, January 2012.

Malaysia needs to maintain capital regulation tools, by Michael Lim Mah-Hui and Kevin P. Gallagher, The Edge Malaysia , March 5, 2012.

Bamboozled by the TPP: The Small Benefits and Real Costs of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, by Kevin P. Gallagher, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, January 23, 2012.

Mission Creep: International Investment Agreements and Sovereign Debt Restructuring," by Kevin P. Gallagher, Investment Treaty News, January 12, 2012.

Trading Away Development:  The US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Kevin P. Gallagher,GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, October 3, 2011.

U.S. Trade Policy: Moving Backwards in the 21st Century, by Timothy A. Wise, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, September 15, 2011.

U.S. Trade Policy: Still Waiting for a "21st Century Trade Agreement," by Timothy A. Wise and Kevin P. Gallagher, LATN Brief, August, 2011.

Dangers of Unrestrained Commerce, by Kevin P Gallagher and Jayati Ghosh, Mint (daily newspaper of the Wall Street Journal in India), November 3, 2010.

US-China Investment Treaty: A Threat to Stability and Growth in China, by Kevin P. Gallagher, GDAE Globalization Commentary, from Triple Crisis Blog, June 15, 2010.

US trade agreements threaten emerging markets' financial stability by Kevin Gallagher, Financial Times, May 11, 2010.

Obama's "New" Trade Policy: What Happened to Multilateralism? by Kevin Gallagher, Policy Innovations, Carnegie Council, March 22, 2010.

"Free Trade Agreements in the Americas: Worth the Investment?" by Kevin P. Gallagher, Bridges Trade Monthly, ICTSD, Nov.-Dec. 2007 (Also published in Spanish in ICTSD's Puentes).


The Political Economy of Hemispheric Integration: Responding to Globalization in the Americas

Edited by Diego Sánchez-Ancochea and Kenneth C. Shadlen, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.


No Voy en Tren: Uruguay y las perspectivas de un TLC con Estados Unidos (2000-2010) [Not On Board: Uruguay and the Prospects for a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, 2000-2010]
By Roberto Porzecanski
Debate (Random House Mondadori), June 2010

Read more on GDAE’s work on Reforming US Trade Agreements

Read more on Lessons from NAFTA

Read more on GDAE’s Globalization and Sustainable Development Program

The Global Development and Environment Institute’s Globalization and Sustainable Development Program examines the economic, social and environmental impacts of economic integration in developing countries, with a particular emphasis on the WTO and NAFTA's lessons for trade and development policy. The goal of the program is to identify policies and international agreements that foster sustainable development.

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