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Research Projects Underway

Title: Domestic Politics of Escape Clauses in International Trade Agreements
Professors: Renee Bowen and Lawrence Broz
Graduate Student Researcher: Amir Fahrai

Our project explores the domestic politics of "flexibility" provisions in international trade agreements. Flexibility provisions are escape clauses that allow member countries to temporarily break their commitments (for example, to raise tariffs to moderate the economic impact of a sudden surge in imports). Our goal is to explain when and why domestic governments introduce flexibility provisions into the trade agreements they make with other nations.

To answer this question, we are gathering original data on congressional legislation that has mentioned these safeguards, along with the partisan breakdown of support during roll calls. We are also looking at the language contained within trade agreements themselves to track the evolution of safeguards. Data sources include original congressional records through, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, HeinOnline’s Treaties and Agreements Library, the Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL), and LexisNexis.

Flexibility provisions make free trade agreements possible. They provide member governments with the breathing space to accommodate industries being unduly affected by international trade, thus enabling deeper and more lasting agreements. Mutually-beneficial free trade policies would be less likely without them. This research is part of a larger project exploring the origins, continuity and change in flexibility arrangements.