Trade Policy

world trade routes_2Clients and collaborators – For the past two decades, we have supported state governments, international coalitions, and public interest advocates who work on trade and investment policy.  Their goal is to preserve policy space for governments to provide or regulate essential services (e.g., energy, health care, food markets), set labor standards, and regulate products that affect the environment and public health.  See our list of trade-related clients and collaborators here.

Projects on Trade and Investment Policy

Carbon pricingTrade, Climate and Carbon Pricing – Widespread adoption of carbon pricing is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.  Many major carbon-emitting countries—including the European Union, Canada, and China—are already developing and implementing their own carbon-pricing programs.  More than twenty subnational governments have also adopted carbon pricing.  Lack of support from the United States—at the national level—has cast doubt on the prospects for progress on climate change in general and carbon pricing in particular.  Some foreign leaders have suggested that carbon-pricing programs would put their products at a competitive disadvantage if the United States fails to adopt similar policies.  Resistance to carbon pricing from the U.S. federal government, however, need not deter other countries—or subnational governments in the United States—from implementing carbon-pricing programs. The Harrison Institute is developing guidance for how governments can effectively collaborate—consistent with applicable trade rules—in setting a global price on carbon while protecting their exports from being subject to border taxes.

Sea slave Sea food supply chains – The world’s seafood supply chains are facing two crises. Most commercial fish stocks are facing potential collapse from over-exploitation. Simultaneously, there is growing evidence of extensive human rights abuses—including the use of slave labor—in the seafood industry. Efforts to address both issues are hampered by a lack of available information about seafood supply chains. The Harrison Institute is working to promote transparency of seafood supply chains, building on strategies we have developed in our work on global apparel supply chains.  This project builds on our previous work on the extent to which countries could use trade rules to challenge illegal fishing and prohibited subsidies, which fuel exploitation of fisheries to the point of commercial extinction.

Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – The United States and the EU negotiated 16 rounds to create a trans-Atlantic trade and investment agreement that could restrict affect the ability of governments to regulate in a wide variety of areas, including climate change, public services, and tobacco control.  Negotiations are suspended pending a comprehensive review of trade policy by the U.S. government.

fossil fuel subsidiesUsing TTIP to reduce fossil fuel subsidies – The European Commission estimates that TTIP will make climate change worse for a number of reasons, including more cross-Atlantic trade in fossil fuels and indirect stimulus to consume fossil fuels in places like China.  The Greens Group in the European Parliament responded by asking the Harrison Institute to prepare a paper that explains how the TTIP negotiators could set trade rules to limit fossil fuel subsidies.  Progress in the TTIP would create momentum for wider subsidy reform in the G-20, where efforts to limit fossil fuel subsidies have stalled.  Recent work:

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Tobacco in trade and investment agreements – For over a decade, Congress has prohibited U.S. negotiators from using trade agreements to promote tobacco trade to undermine restrictions on tobacco products imposed by other countries.  Nonetheless, the past eight U.S. trade agreements eliminate tobacco tariffs and provide investors with rights similar to those that Philip Morris is using to challenge tobacco control in Australia and Uruguay.  We have worked with an international coalition that seeks to protect tobacco-control measures from being challenged under trade and investment agreements.  Recent work:

Foreign investor rights– Foreign investors are using some of the 3,000 International Investment Agreements (IIAs) to challenge regulations in the public interest:tobacco controls, mining permits, and hazardous waste regulations, to name a few.  For the past 10 years, we have worked with clients and collaborators in the United States, Europe, Asia and South America on reform of IIAs.  Several countries have begun to limit their IIAs so that foreign investors do not have greater rights than citizens enjoy under domestic law.  The United States is negotiating bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with China and India.   Recent work:

energy workersTrade in Services Agreement (TiSA) – A coalition of countries is pushing for TiSA, a trade agreement that would expand commitments on trade in services beyond those that already exist under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services.  If adopted, TiSA would cover $44 trillion in services trade, about 80 percent of global GDP.  It would prohibit preferential treatment for public services, quantitative limits (market access limits) such as quotas or prohibitions on risky services, and impose "disciplines" on domestic regulation of services. If adopted as proposed, TiSA would limit the power of governments to regulate service industries (energy, banking, hazardous waste, etc.) and alter the constitutional balance of power between the federal government and states.  We have worked with Public Services International and sub-national governments that seek to moderate these proposals in keeping traditional powers of local state and national governments in the United States and elsewhere.

Trade limits on domestic regulation – A similar coalition of countries in the WTO is pushing for “disciplines” on domestic regulation of services that, if adopted, would limit the power of governments to regulate service industries (energy, banking, hazardous waste, etc.) and alter the constitutional balance of power between the federal government and states.  We have worked with both national and sub-national governments that seek to moderate these proposals in keeping with state practice in domestic law. Recent work:

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