Implications for transatlantic trade relations: Policy recommendations from the study
Those actors negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), namely the U.S. government and the European Commission, might argue that the process of including various stakeholders in the negotiations is already sufficient. But the widespread notion among all other populations interviewed was that this is not the case. There are remedies to address some of the issues with the current trade policy-making process.
Transparency and participation
Training and education
In order for international trade negotiations to be understood, particularly if more substantial access to negotiation texts is granted, state officials need to be better informed about the negotiation process and the potential impacts on their states. So far, learning about international trade policy depends largely on the personal motivation of the state officials involved. State organizations like the CSG or the National Association of State Procurement Officials, along with the ALEC or NCEL and the various state trade policy commissions, are vital in educating legislators about international trade policy. Building on their ideas and offers to create a more systematic nation-wide effort would be beneficial. For example, education and training could include webinars or in-state briefings on trade policy making, newsletters on pending trade legislation, web portals on specific policy issues (one is already offered on procurement by the corresponding state association, the National Association of State Procurement Officials1National Association of State Procurement Officials. (2016a). Guide to International Trade
Agreements. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from http://www.naspo.org/ita/index.html.) or regular briefings with federal officials outside of the immediate negotiation issues discussed in the IGPAC.
The Forum on Democracy and Trade somewhat fulfilled this role in the early 2000s as a permanent institutionalized information exchange solely focused on trade policy. Having a similar consultative body again has been suggested by state leaders in the 2004 IGPAC memo and again in a 2009 testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Trade. It would be helpful for state officials to understand the magnitude of trade policy for their states. Every state already has a dedicated single point of contact on trade issues, yet these officials’ expertise lies mostly in trade promotional efforts. It would therefore be necessary to stress trade policy over trade promotion, since state officials already have a great deal of expertise in the latter field. The IGPAC has already suggested a commission to conduct research and also facilitate state-federal dialogue on trade policy.2Wilkie, Kay Alison. (2004, August 5). Recommendations for Improving Federal-State Trade Policy Coordination. Retrieved September 4, 2016, from http://www.naspo.org/ita/2/6_IGPACrecommendationsFed-StateCoord_8-4-2005.pdf. Here:pp. 7-8.
If the IGPAC (see the post on this body) is to be kept as the major state-federal consultation mechanism, not only does the information dissemination have to change for it to be more effective but also the membership. A 2008 survey by Public Citizen showed that some state legislators favored a consultation body with one representative from each state, while other state legislators deemed this unrealistic.3Bottari, Mary & Lori Wallach. (2009). States’ Rights and International Trade. A Legislator’s Guide to Reinvigorating Federalism and Preserving Policy Space in the Era of Globalization. Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. Retrieved December 22, 2015, from https://www.citizen.org/documents/States_Rights_and_Trade.pdf. Here: pp. 51-52. It does seem impractical to have the committee be wholly representative of all the states: Working with 50 or more state officials would hinder decision making within the body and the goal is to focus on broader state issues anyways. To aggregate and articulate these issues, though, IGPAC membership has to become more representative. States of all sizes, regions, economic backgrounds and political color have to be represented as well as the biggest state organizations. Furthermore, vacancies must be filled promptly to ensure continuous dialogue.
Intergovernmental dispute resolution mechanism and Federalism Council
Based on the IGPAC’s work, a rather simple method of direct communication would be to establish a state-federal working group for every issue that has appeared in, say, three IGPAC reports in a row. This would guarantee that a topic such as the ISDS mechanism or procurement would be discussed in depth between the USTR and state officials. Respondents were sure that the USTR knows of the most important state positions already, but corporate interests still dominate the USTR’s work. In order to balance out private actors’ access, a special state-federal working group could deal with potential areas of conflict, as also suggested by the IGPAC with the above-mentioned commission to improve state-federal dialogue on trade policy. Apart from appeasing those critics who lament too big a role for businesses at the USTR, it would help prevent all-out conflict.
An institution with such a broad focus was in existence for a period of time: The U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations between 1959 and 1996 served to “strengthen the American federal system and improve the ability of federal, state, and local governments to work together cooperatively, efficiently, and effectively.”5U.S. Congress. (1959). H.R. 6904: An Act to establish an Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (Public Law 86-380). U.S. Government Publishing Office. Retrieved December 2, 2016, from https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-73/pdf/STATUTE-73-Pg703.pdf. Individual state advisory commissions on intergovernmental relations used to be in place as well, but their number has declined6Cole, Richard L. (2011). The Current Status and Roles of State Advisory Commissions on Intergovernmental Relations in the U.S. Federal System. Public Administration Review, 71(2), 190-195., contributing to a “demise of intergovernmental institutions.”7Kincaid, John. (2011a). State-Federal Relations: Civil War Redux? In T. C. o. S. Governments (Ed.), The Book of the States 2011 (pp. 21-28). Lexington: The Council of State Governments. Here: p. 26. The Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations did, overall, serve as an institutionalized forum to research and consult on federalism issues. It was defunded in the late 1990s and while some authors have brought it up, they conclude a resurrection in its old or even narrower forms seems unlikely because of today’s high party polarization. Therefore, the basic idea of having a council or advisory body that could bring together state, federal and even international actors to cooperate and solve potential conflicts in U.S. federalism is politically not feasible at the moment but could be pursued at a later point.