Addressing methodological weaknesses and pointing to future research opportunities

For my oral defense, I focused my presentation mostly on the feedback and criticism I had received from my advisors. This was an opportunity to discuss some of the study’s flaws and to point out options how future research could address these weaknesses.

Addressing methodological and analytical criticism

One of the most crucial drawbacks of my analysis is that I introduce selection bias by focusing on those states that are actually active in TTIP interest representation. Apart from logistical and financial limitations that partly led me to choose deliberative sampling, there are analytical reasons as well. Since my research questions called for finding out the means, motivations and state-federal conflicts in states’ TTIP interest representation, it was necessary for me to focus my interviewee search on those individuals and organizations that are actually working on TTIP topics. Otherwise, I would not be able to analyze if and how states make their voices heard on the trade deal.

A crosscheck with states that remained silent on the TTIP could be interesting, though, and is an option for future investigations with bigger and more resourceful research teams. Still, my interviews did explore potential reasons for states’ engagement with the TTIP and potential reasons for their idleness. This is because generally, the TTIP was not a high-priority issue, so interviewees – even those actively engaging on the trade deal – offered explanations for a lack of attention to the TTIP on the central and noncentral levels.

Options for future research

From the outset, this research had many shortcomings in the form of omissions, and the findings have opened opportunities for future research. The further study of U.S. states in transatlantic relations or transatlantic trade relations could benefit in the following three key areas:

Comparative dimensions

  • Studies could compare states’ engagement in Europe with their engagement in Asia. The Pacific rim marketplace is growing faster than European economies are and many economic state powerhouses are on the West coast and thus closer to Asia than Europe. It could therefore be interesting to examine if states are more active in representing their trade promotional and trade policy interests in Asia than in the EU.
  • Another comparison would be between states’ interest representation on the TTIP versus the TPP. The transpacific free trade negotiations elicited stronger public interest in the U.S. than the European talks did, so researchers could look for more reasons than the ones presented in this study as to why states seemed more mindful of the TPP than the TTIP.
  • A different twist would be to compare U.S. states’ activities on the TTIP or the TPP with those of other noncentral governments in Europe or in Asia. This would offer the chance to contrast the experience of German federal states, Japanese prefectures and U.S. federal states, for instance.

Broadening the scope

  • An omission in this study results from its focus on those states actively representing their interests on the TTIP. Specifically asking state officials why their state has been silent on transatlantic matters would be an option to crosscheck the argument put forth in my work explaining the reasons for and variation in states’ TTIP interest representation.
  • The most comprehensive study would include a detailed look at every state’s transatlantic relations from a cultural, economic and political perspective. Such a study could deliver more evidence for the claim of interdependent, globalized markets and societies, and would go far beyond the narrow view taken in this work.
  • In addition to looking at the 50 states, future analyses of noncentral governments’ foreign affairs could include Washington, D.C., and the territories. Their special constitutional status differentiates them from other states and thus might add new insight on how institutional settings shape interest representation capabilities. The local level in the U.S. and their activities with international businesses and international trade topics could be another addition to the literature.

Narrowing the scope

  • Instead of focusing on a comparative view, it could also be valuable to examine one or just a few states’ international affairs in depth and in a historical context. The development and potentially the growth of transatlantic relations within a single state could be highlighted, including the various actors involved and issues discussed. A similar angle would be zooming in on a specific set of states based on certain characteristics, for instance agricultural states in the South or strongly progressive states.
  • A longitudinal study of change on a specific international topic would also be helpful. For instance, an analysis of states’ engagement within the IGPAC from the NAFTA to the TTIP will reveal continuity and breaks in their interests and the global trade environment they act within.
  • Another option is singling out a specific policy field of transatlantic proportions to investigate, regardless of a connection to ongoing trade negotiations. Financial services, specifically insurance policy, comes to mind here. Climate change policies could also be analyzed.
  • Lastly, I have deliberately not taken sides on the TTIP and what its impact on the states might or should be, and whether states should or should not address the negotiations, as I was chiefly concerned with establishing if and how some U.S. states represent their interests. An in-depth study of the TTIP that combines an evaluation of potential export and investment effects with an analysis of potential state-level regulatory effects could shed light on the degree to which U.S. states are impacted by international trade agreements, no matter the historical precedents or partisan preferences.