Trade Deals Under the Radar

August 19, 2021

Trade Deals Under the Radar

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile device:

apple podcastApple Podcasts spotifySpotify stitcherStitcher
host jill o'donnell Jill O'Donnell
guest Headshot of Kathleen Claussen
Kathleen Claussen

This episode is dedicated to the trade deals you haven’t heard about. Sometimes called mini or skinny deals, over the last few decades the U.S. has made over 1,200 of these agreements. These deals cover a range of issues, vary in scope, are often not made public, and rarely go out of force. They have one thing in common: all are initiated by the Executive branch and enacted without a final “thumbs up” from Congress. Kathleen Claussen, Associate Professor at the University of Miami School of Law and former associate general counsel at USTR, is tracking down these agreements. Kathleen joins us to explain what they are and what we need to know about them.

Opinions expressed on Trade Matters are solely those of the guest or host and not the Yeutter Institute or the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Show Notes

What Kathleen has been reading lately:
How responsive is Trade Adjustment Assistance? Sung Eun Kim and Krzysztof Pelc


Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the audio before quoting in print and write to report any errors. Transcripts will be posted within one week of the show.

Jill O'Donnell: Welcome to Trade Matters, a podcast by the Yeutter Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I’m Jill O'Donnell. Our guest today is Kathleen Claussen, Associate Professor at the University of Miami School of Law and a non-resident senior fellow at Georgetown’s Institute of International Economic Law. She previously served as associate general counsel at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative from 2014-2017.

Kathleen, thank you so much for joining us today on Trade Matters. We really appreciate it.

Kathleen Claussen: Thanks so much for having me, Jill. I'm a big fan of the podcast and I've learned a lot from past episodes, so it's a real honor to be here.

Jill O'Donnell: Thank you. Well, it's very exciting for me to have you here. You are doing some really interesting research, leading a team doing research on trade executive agreements. I think this is going to be a really informative episode for myself and our listeners. I'd like to start by asking you what these agreements are and why you're researching them. Those who follow trade headlines closely have likely seen reference to the idea of mini-trade deals over the last couple of years. Some of the high profile ones have been the US-Japan deals on agriculture and digital trade, but thanks to research by you and your team, that is still ongoing, we know that these mini deals are far more prevalent than probably a lot of people realize. These were formerly called trade executive agreements, or TEAs. They don't require congressional approval and about 1,200 of them have been concluded in the last 40 years. Let's start by defining trade executive agreements. What are they and what compelled you to begin this research project?

Kathleen Claussen: Great. Well, again, thanks for the chance to talk about these that are near and dear to my heart. Trade executive agreements is the term that I developed to try to understand them a little bit better and to draw emphasis to the fact that they are done by the executive branch. They are deals that govern trade flows into or out of the United States that US agencies conclude with foreign partners, and they do that without congressional approval after the fact. These sorts of deals are everywhere. They're somewhat obvious, but also somewhat really hard to find. So, how can that be so? Well, we've known that there's a common understanding, at least among foreign relations folks, that there's this regulatory turn in our foreign relations, that we do all sorts of deals now that manage the way in which our government works and indeed how some private actors work. But what we haven't really appreciated is what that means for trade law and its institutions and just how far these stretch, what exactly do they do? With respect to what that means for trade law, I mean, some would say there can be no such thing as a trade executive agreement because according to the constitution, Congress regulates foreign commerce.

We know that Congress has of course over the years delegated a lot of that authority to the executive branch. Now, we tend to think about delegations to change tariff rates, for example. We've seen that a lot lately, the Section 301 tariffs on products from China, Section 232 tariffs related to steel and aluminum. Those are the types of delegations with which we're familiar. We're also familiar with delegations to negotiate big trade deals that get congressional approval after the fact through fast-track Trade Promotion Authority. So, we hear about those, USMCA, the tariffs, et cetera, here though, no approval after negotiation. There's the authority to go negotiate them, but they don't come back like something like USMCA would. So, what do they do? You call them mini deals, right? We call them mini, skinny. I've heard all sorts of different names for them. That's one of the interesting features here, nobody really knows what to call them. You look at some of the reporting on the Japan deal that you mentioned, the media is like, "What are these things? We don't really know what to call them because when you compare them to USMCA, everybody knows what that is, but these are a lot harder to find." So, we take them for granted. I'll just give one example and we could talk more about this. If you take a tomato, this is... I like to use a tomato because everybody can understand that the law applicable to a tomato coming into the United States will include some statutes, regulations. The Food Safety Modernization Act is one that we know well. But many listeners will know also that major parts of what I call the "international produce canon" consists of agreements, and those are agreements that are concluded between maybe the USDA and its counterpart in the tomatoes' country of origin. Those might cover topics as specific as what treatment methods the tomato receives while it's still very far away, its processing and its storage, its labeling and its packaging, under what conditions it can be sold in our local supermarkets. These sorts of agreements are what we're talking about here. They really are the backbone of the rules that govern not just tomatoes, but everything from tomatoes to titanium, telecommunications, trousers, and even things beyond the letter T.

Jill O'Donnell: So, what compelled you then to begin this research project, Kathleen?

Kathleen Claussen: I had started researching them out of curiosity, frankly. I had in my time at the US Trade Representatives office at USTR, I had helped to negotiate a few of these myself. I had the agriculture portfolio and remember clearly working on some exchanges of letters that had to do with chickens and how we certify on certain chickens to be healthy when they're coming in from other parts of the world. So, I knew that they were out there. Then in these last few years, starting to see them being deployed in new and interesting ways but not seeing a lot of analysis to go with that, led me to want to investigate.

I realized we didn't really have a good grip on what's out there as was evidenced by that lack of a name that I mentioned before and we certainly didn't have a grip on where they fit into our trade law system. So, got into that, and before we knew it, my team, and I should say without whom this would not be possible at all, the team has just been instrumental in finding all of these with me, we found hundreds and hundreds more and that's how we got to where we are.

Jill O'Donnell: Okay. I've read some of your research on this that you're starting to publish and you found that in 2020 alone, so last year alone, the United States entered into 32 different commercial agreements with foreign trading partners. Some of them changed tariff rates, some made new rules, some established new regulatory processes. You've also found that about one third of these agreements are not available to the public or even to Congress. So, what can you tell us about some of the deals made last year that we haven't heard about?

Kathleen Claussen: Last year, a banner year, 32 that we know of. The average is usually about 20 a year at least in recent years. So, in that group of 2020 deals, apart from the ones that we've discussed that hit the headlines... Have you heard of the deal with Costa Rica on conformity assessment procedures for new pneumatic tires, for example? Or the exchange of letters with Bolivia on the Bolivian distilled spirit called Singani? Those are just two of the lesser known agreements. We've had lots of letters exchanged with Canada, Mexico, and Japan, and some of which were on the sidelines of the bigger deals that were being done with those partners. An agreement with the UK on wine, another with the UK on Marine equipment. I mentioned some of these are called exchanges of letters, side letters. The naming conventions really are diverse across the collection. Frankly, that range of titles can make it hard to figure out what's actually in this collection, what should be in here. In total, the United States has these TEAs with 130 countries. That list is pretty top heavy. The top five governments alone account for about a third of TEAs. Those are Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Canada, and the European Union. They take up quite a few. You can see just from those examples, some of those are partners with whom we have FTAs and some of them are not. Then you've got 46 countries of the 130 where we just have one TEA with them. So, a real range. They cover the waterfront of topics, everything from customs arrangements, something that's squarely trade-centric, food safety, insurance, tax, autos, just to name a few. Some of them are more cooperative, they intend to set up a dialogue with the other government on a trade-related issue, but others go much farther and seek to make changes to the regulatory processes that we have for US goods and services. So, a range in countries, a range in topics, a range in labels, not as much range in durability. What do I mean by that? Well, most of these were negotiated in the last 40 or so years, so they've been around and most of them are still enforced today. So, we've seen a steady growth in the reach of some of these agreements over time, but otherwise, they've been pretty consistent year to year and they seem to never go out of force from what we can tell. So, these are long-lasting, as I said, durable agreements.

Jill O'Donnell: As you and your team continue this project in tracking down these agreements, I understand that they can be very hard to find and some are entirely missing. You have found that no government agency has a comprehensive collection of these agreements. You even shared an interesting anecdote that I just have to share with our listeners that one former USTR official recalled an instance where an abbreviated summary of a deal was jotted down in the margins of a map purchased at the gift shop of the negotiating venue and that there is no other record of that agreement. So, where are you and your team searching for these agreements? How are you going about tracking them down? And how concerning is this lack of a paper trail and transparency here?

Kathleen Claussen: Well, that's a great story and it's not the only one of its type. When you consider TEAs' ubiquity, this obscurity, it seems all the more perplexing. The transparency issues surrounding them are surely the most concerning to the trade law community writ large, and that includes, I think, some of the members of the foreign commerce bureaucracy, some of our bureaucrats, who are trying to actually work with them. This is not just the outsiders looking in. They've been under the radar for a few reasons. Most important, I think, to that is the institutional system that we have now which does not require that TEAs be made public. There's some controversy over whether they even need to be reported to Congress. That makes it easy to just negotiate them and operationalize them without doing much more, without ever letting anybody about some of them at least. Every once in a while, you hear broadly about some of these deals. Of course, the Phase One deal with China, so-called, the Japan deals, those are somewhat exceptional. But we don't hear about these everyday often very helpful ones, like my chicken letters, for example. Some agencies, I think, they want to publicize them. They want to say, "Hey we got this great deal for our farmers, our ranchers, our producers." Those are the ones that are easy to locate, you'd get the press release. Then the others just not so much. So, where did we look to find them? As you said, four agencies keep incomplete lists on their websites. You can go to USTR, you go to Commerce Department, State Department, International Trade Commission. They have various lists. You can find others on websites of USDA, FDA, and others, but those are not as systematic as the central agencies I mentioned. So, we started with those. We went through all of the agency websites and took note of the ones we could find there.

USTR stands out in its role as trade policy coordinator and head of our trade agreements program according to statute. In that role, it has to publish every year an annual report. That annual report has at least for several years included an annex. The annex lists, it says, "Here are all the trade agreements that USTR is monitoring." You could find several hundred there. The 2019 annual report of USTR, the annex lists 648 agreements of several different types. But when we started looking on the USTR website, we found an additional more than 200 other agreements that were listed somewhere on the website. So, to be sure, the lists are imperfect, and I would say the same about State and Commerce and ITC, not to pick on USTR. So, we knew we had to go beyond the government websites. We started looking in press releases, presidential proclamation sometimes referred to them, academic articles of course, the Federal Register. You sometimes see a reference there. That was step one. Step one was we had to figure out what's out there, just make the list.

Step two proved even more challenging as that was trying to find copies, to get actually the text of these agreements. You might think they go hand in hand, but actually they don't. For that, we had to expand even more. We went to the National Archives, Congressional Research Service. We got some help from the Library of Congress, we reached out to other scholars who generously shared work that they had done, and actually foreign governments approved to be very helpful indeed. I happened to have contacts with a number of trade officials around the world and would reach out to them. Sometimes they found these, sometimes they couldn't either. There's a great story that is... I've heard variations of this story from multiple people, where they'd be at a negotiation, some US government officials at a negotiation, the government on the other side will say, "Hey, maybe we should make reference to that 1987 agreement that we did on this topic." And no one on the US side will have heard of this or know that it exists. That type of thing happens more frequently than we know and more frequently than it should so that even reaching out to these agencies directly and asking for a copy of the 1987 whatever agreement, which we also did to be sure, we checked with all these agencies for these lists, even that was insufficient. We knew it would be given these gaps that we had heard about.

Finally, we also reached out to subscription services. These are paid library collections. HeinOnline is one. Westlaw through Thomson Reuters is another. These paid services gave us even more additional results that we couldn't find anywhere else. So, it was really a combination of all of these sources that got us the collection that we have. I will quickly add that we are still missing copies of about 200 agreements that we believe to exist. We've got the 1,230 or so that we're tracking, 200 of them we don't have the copies, and we actually have several hundred more than that we're still trying to process. That's the process we had to undertake. You may be wondering, Jill, what happened here? What are the reasons for these disappearances?

In speaking with the officials who have been working on these, negotiating them, monitoring them, et cetera, several different disconcerting causes have come to light. Often, you hear about institutional turnover, somebody left the office and that just got lost. Sometimes I would say that was before computers, but computers haven't really helped because some officials would say that, "Well, in that technology migration," everybody's been through this in your institution, "went from one system to another and something got lost." So, in that technology migration, some of these agreements may have been deleted by accident. Some have said that there have been various capacity limitations. "We were just so busy. It was all I could do to get to the next negotiation. I couldn't possibly stop and make sure that my paperwork got to the right channels." And I will say some people have said maybe this obscurity is also purposeful, that is that some agencies are trying to hide these. That was the rare case. There are clearly some record keeping failures within our trade administrative state. It's no one's fault, no particular person's fault, but the system is clearly lacking, and what's sad is that it's let down our folks when they need the help the most at the negotiating table.

Jill O'Donnell: Fascinating. Let's talk a little bit more about the implications for this lack of transparency before I later ask you how you'd recommend maybe fixing it. But what are the implications of this for the business and agriculture communities if they don't know that these agreements exist, much less have the chance to weigh in as they are being negotiated? Then how might that impact their businesses or their trust in the officials who are negotiating on their behalf?

Kathleen Claussen: Sure. I think you really hit the nail on the head with respect to some of the concerns that the business community has voiced on these issues, that is, how can one possibly engage in or control outcomes if we just don't have the info? That's been a problem, some of these transparency issues have been a problem in trade for a long time. And not just on these small agreements, but also the big ones where you hear concerns about transparency for big FTAs. Part of the reason USTR was created was to deal with some of the interest group capture that had been said to exist. But now we have new types of problems in executive branch that have led to these same concerns. Different strategies, I think, that some are undertaking to combat them.

One question I often get is, if no one knows about some of these, are they really being used? Should I really be concerned as a business person in my work here in trade? Well, here's the thing. Often, industry absolutely knows about these, where they apply to them. The individual agreement will be known to those who are most directly affected, and so that at least is happening to some degree. But because we're making trade law and policy in such small pieces through TEAs, sometimes it's difficult to get enough traction to build up pressure for change in that context. Now, that's not to say that we ought to be pushing back on these. I mean, to be sure, many of these deals I alluded to earlier, there are market access creating. There was an interesting exchange between Ambassador Lighthizer, the former USTR, and members of Congress last year in a hearing where he said, "Look, we're solving problems through these deals, so just let us do our work." So, there's likely to be some good happening for some communities and they should take advantage of those opportunities. But if I were a business, I would be wary about where the winners and losers are being selected without my knowledge and input, and especially those that may have an indirect effect on me where I may not be able to be fully clued in.

These are rule-making tools. We usually allow and encourage public notice and comment on rules. Even in our big trade agreements, we have mechanisms for public feedback. We want the government to have the best information available and that's hard to facilitate if the relevant groups are not involved or involved in or aware of the negotiations. Also, the fact that these just get operationalized without much more could mean that later down the road folks don't even know that the practices or the rules that they're using, that we have in effect, originated in a TEA. So, whether it's as a matter of good governance that we should know what sorts of obligations the government's entering into, whether it's the fact that these do change the course of business and affect opportunities for ranchers and farmers and industries and others, or whether it's a matter of accountability that we usually have a way to hold our government actors accountable for the work that they do, and this is one of those areas where those mechanisms simply are not available, those are, I think, reasons why the business and an agricultural communities will want to be paying attention.

Jill O'Donnell: You've identified a key question throughout this entire conversation that I think is really interesting and really at the heart of the difficulty in pinning down all of these trade executive agreements, and that is, what constitutes a trade deal? What is a trade deal? You mentioned the public comment processes that are set out in our laws when a major comprehensive free trade agreement is being negotiated, but that's not the case with a lot of these TEAs. You mentioned also what you call the trade administrative state. You've done a lot of work on that as well, how our US trade law making is fragmented, dispersed across different government agencies. You also mentioned the USDA earlier, and I want to hone in on something you wrote about using USDA as an example of one government agency that negotiates, in this case, agricultural trade agreements that govern the import-export harmonization of agricultural products and that those, at least in the USDA context, are called work plans. Although they may be negotiated in partnership with USTR, these work plans don't make the cuts for inclusion in USTR's annual report where all those trade agreements are listed in the annex. So, my question for you is, if USDA and perhaps that our agencies are busy negotiating agreements that they don't consider to rise to the level of an executive agreement, then how can we really get a handle on the situation and who's responsible for defining what is a trade deal?

Kathleen Claussen: Right. Okay. Big questions there. Who's responsible? I mean, the short answer really, constitutionally of course, is Congress, but it's not a one-way street. It will take both branches to address these questions, and rightly so. There's important work being done that if we knew about it, we might be able to govern better, we might be able to at least address some of these problems. So, Congress has started to recognize this, and not just because there's an expectation that this administration perhaps more than others will use these tools more. We heard from President Biden that he's not interested, there's no appetite right now in big FTAs. So, one might think that if we're going to be making advances in trade policy, it might be through these smaller deals. But it's also because the last administration started to push the boundaries again on that definition, on what exactly it is that the executive can do without congressional approval.

Members of Congress are clearly ready to work with the executive on these to write new legislation that would change the terms of engagement on some of these. Not to make them overly complicated, but to improve some of the mechanics just so that we know. As you point out, that is no small task, there are so many different styles of agreements. We discussed earlier the different labels that now the real challenge is crafting the language so that, again, it's not creating too much interference for this important work but is also facilitating better understanding of the work that's being done. In the absence of TPA, of Trade Promotion Authority, there's some time and space to look at these more thoroughly. But I would say, what is the rest of the trade law landscape look like? As we said, the argument for making these available is strong, even for those that are small or seemingly inconsequential, and so I think that work is going to be taken up and we'll see which direction the Congress wants to go with it.

Jill O'Donnell: If I could ask you just a brief follow-up question there about Trade Promotion Authority which expired as of July 1st. And that, to reminder listeners, allows for Congress to consider trade agreements that are negotiated by the executive branch on an expedited timeframe as long as certain consultation requirements, for example, are observed by the executive branch. So, that is expired. But I wonder, do you think that trade executive agreements and everything you're finding here and these issues that you've raised will be part of any debate that there might be at such time that Congress decides to take a look at renewing TPA, writing a new TPA law? How do you think this work might figure into that kind of debate?

Kathleen Claussen: Yeah, it's a great question. I see three routes by which this work can be done. On the one hand, TEAs could be addressed in a future TPA. There's building pressure on the Hill for renewing TPA so that we get back in the game on big trade agreements. We hear that now increasingly, that is the tone. If that legislation were to come to pass and if that ramps up even more, then I would expect to see some treatment of TEAs within TPA. So, it could be not a full TPA process, I don't think the expectation will be that all of these agreements need to go through congressional approval, but you can imagine things like greater consultation or requiring notice of some sort publicly and to the Congress in ways it's not happening now. And that would fit nicely with the general goals of TPA to facilitate the Biden branch engagement on that.

Another route by which that could happen is in its own legislation. The longer the administration doesn't want to pursue TPA and it suggests that it's not going to go down that road, that would not necessarily hold back the Congress from then putting either in its own legislation or tucking in somewhere else some of these same consultation mechanisms and engagement mechanisms on these agreements, like, "knowing that they're on the horizon, let's try to take care of them through some other way. We realize they're important and so we want to do that in its own space, not tie it up with TPA." That could be a second path.

The third path could be with respect to the transparency issues. There is a discussion, a separate discussion, happening about transparency on non-trade agreements, and a number of folks concerned about the State Department's management in that zone, the non-trade zone. So, there is now perhaps the opportunity to marry up those discussions and say, "Hey, while you're addressing the transparency problems with the State Department when it comes to foreign agreements, maybe we should also address the transparency problems that are arising in the trade space. So, I see those three different opportunities by which Congress and the executive could try to sort this out.

Jill O'Donnell: To wrap this up, I'd like to ask you a couple of questions about what you think comes next based on what you've learned so far. You've talked about how TEA's are hard to track down, often not made public, may never go out of force. In that case, what do you think should come next in terms of how to assess and review them so we know what kind of economic impact they might have, know how they're being implemented and enforced? What comes next in terms of the interdisciplinary analysis that you think these need? Then following on that, what would be on your transparency wishlist to help bring more of these to light? You've mentioned that the Biden administration does not have an appetite really right now for the big, comprehensive FTAs, so TEA's are going to continue. They'd continue anyway, but they might continue to a greater degree. So, what do you think should come next in terms of both analysis of these as well as transparency?

Kathleen Claussen: All right. Well, you're right. Finding them was the easy step in a way. That was just step one. Now, there's all this space to talk about, are they constitutional? What are they doing? How are they being implemented? All of that work remains to be done. So, we're really just at the beginning, especially on the economic side. I'm glad you raised that. We need folks with those skills to take a closer look at these. The ITC, the International Trade Commission, does some of that work for FTAs, why not do that for TEAs too? So, we can now start to assess if this is the sort of trade relationship network that we want, in these small pieces, with these partners, et cetera.

You asked about implementation. If you'll permit me, I just want a quick a minute on that, because I think that is just another area that's understudied and requires a lot more attention. We have a tendency as scholars, just to speak for my people, we have a tendency to focus on how we get into agreements and how we get out of them. So, the entrance and the exit are very well-trodden territory. We spend much less time as researchers, and I think maybe also as the public, understanding how these agreements are managed while we're in them and while they're in force. If we just take a step back and look at this as an agreement having a lifecycle to it, then we could start to understand what happens in the in-between. So, implementation, it's a process, it's an exercise you hear a lot about. When it comes to USMCA, this administration is adamant we're going to make sure Mexico implements all of these pieces. You get the sense that implementation and enforcement go hand in hand when we talk about these big FTAs. We could debate that some other time.

When it comes to TEAs, implementation looks quite different. What actually happens when an agency goes out and negotiates one of these? Let's just take my Bolivian agreement example, one of those great 2020 agreements that I mentioned earlier. This is the one where USTR goes out and negotiates with Bolivia this protection for the Bolivian spirit called Singani. Then what happens? Well, USTR could go tell the Treasury Department, which is the one that manages our distilled spirits labeling regime, it could basically call up Treasury and say, "Hey, we just negotiated this. Why don't you make this happen?" Then Treasury's work begins. Treasury then has to decide how it's going to do that. Is it going to do a rulemaking like it normally does, or is it going to find another way to give effect to the commitments in the agreement? Immediately, we've complicated the rulemaking and regulatory exercise through the negotiation of a TEA. Now, that complication may be intentional and may be good, it may lead to better outcomes, but it absolutely disrupts what we previously understood to be the means by which we make cross-border rules.

Until that TEA came along, the way to bring Singani into the labeling regime that Treasury manages was to do a notice in common rulemaking. That's what the statutes that govern Treasury's work provides. Now, you've got another source of law and figuring out what is the force of law of that source of law is going to become more important the more that we rely on these mini-deals to achieve our foreign commercial outcomes. They're legal strengths and the way they become part of US law is only going to grow in significance. And that's true not only in trade but in other areas of executive agreements as well. So, I think that could create problems, but it also could create opportunities for these different styles of administrative law making, and that's why implementation is going to become more important. You asked about how to improve the situation, right?

Jill O'Donnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kathleen Claussen: Okay. Look, we want to keep these. These are important tools, they do good work. They can even be under the radar, they don't need that much, but they shouldn't be under the table. There are some small ways I think that we can deal with these surface level problems to keep these from being under the table. The first is, here we go, some low-hanging fruit. Find them and make them available. We said USTR already has a critical mass, so we need to locate all those agreements that are not currently listed on the website, need to digitize them and then create links. A simple landing page with links to all of the agreements that it already boasts in the annual report would be very helpful. To go on and collect those from other agencies would be still more helpful. Now, doing that is, as we've clearly identified, not the easiest task. It may require resources and may require staff.

USTR has a chief transparency officer, a position that was created a few years ago, and in its short lifetime, that role has been assigned to the general counsel of USTR. Now, the general counsel of USTR has a really big job. Adding tasks for that person's portfolio on the topic of transparency is perhaps too much. So, might be more useful to give that to somebody else. Let somebody have their whole job be transparency, give them a staff, and support them with the resources they need. We do not need to be adding to the busy plates of our trade policymakers with the exercise of finding these.

Then last and then what I think is the low-hanging fruit is the reforming of this reporting and publishing process, like just sorting the fault lines that have developed within the executive branch on that. Well, what do I mean by that? Well, I mentioned earlier this whole controversy about the State Department's role in making transparent other types of agreements. The transparency regime under which the State Department operates has some carve-outs, but actually most of these TEAs should probably qualify for the State Department's system. If they did, then they would be published and reported if State Department was doing its work well. But different interpretations have arisen over time as to whether these agreements do qualify for the State Department's regime plus trade traditionally is somewhat exceptional in our foreign relations context. The trade agencies have a different reporting line. They don't report to Senate Foreign Relations, they report to Senate Finance. Likewise on the House side, House Ways and Means. So, these divides have contributed to the problem so that neither the State Department system nor the trade agency system has proven adequate. So, we need to resolve some of those differences within the branch. I think those are the relatively easy things that could be done. It's money, it's time, it's maybe a little bit of law. But getting a better handle on these overall might take more time, we could just start with those simple steps.

Jill O'Donnell: Okay. So, what comes next in your research project, Kathleen, and then where can our listeners read more about your findings and where can we look for what you'll be publishing next?

Kathleen Claussen: Oh, that's very generous of you to ask that. All of the work that we've discussed today is available on a website near you. You can find some of this work on the Social Science Research Network, SSRN, which is where many of us professors post our working drafts. So, download while it's hot, as they say. Or you can just email me, I'm easy to find on the internet and I'm happy to send along these drafts. Let me emphasize that draft point one more time, that comments are welcome on this project and on others that are in motion, especially tips and stories. Sometimes, I feel like an investigative journalist, some aspects of this project. But any comments will do.

What work is there still to be done? Well, there's a history to these that the current project doesn't really get into. I mentioned that most of these are from the last 40 years, but you can find variations on what we would count as a TEA going back much earlier, so the 19th century. So, that's of interest. That work has not yet begun. What has begun is the implementation piece. I just gave you the little teaser trailer version. But looking at the implementation of these agreements and others is what I'm working on now in addition to a couple other projects that may be of interest to listeners although they're not related TEAs. I have an essay on the worker-centered trade policy, what that means, and where that might be headed. That links up to a broader project we're doing on trade and sustainability. So, not just labor, but also environment, development, and much more. That's bubbling now and then coming to fruition. Finally, I also do some work on trade and security and emergencies, exceptions, and what that means for authority within the US trade context. That's another project that's underway.

Jill O'Donnell: Okay. Lots of irons in the fire. Last question for you as I ask every guest on this podcast. What is something you've read lately, aside from the TEAs that you can find, about trade? Book, article, report, something you've read lately about trade or foreign commerce that's been especially striking to you?

Kathleen Claussen: Great. Well, so in the context of that worker-centered trade policy research I've been doing, this work by Krzysztof Pelc who is a Canadian... Well, based in Canada. He's a political scientist who does work on all sorts of trade topics and then some... But he's done some great work together with co-authors and also on his own about trade adjustment assistance. So, I would offer that to listeners as a way to understand how that program works, that program which is also elapsed. We talked about TPA lapsing, TAA also has lapsed. That seems somewhat inconsistent with the worker-centered trade policy, at least to some. Other people would say, "Oh, TAA never did us any good."

Well, Krzysztof has done the work to really see whether TAA ever worked, is that the way we should be supporting communities who have been affected by trade effects, who have been in the context of globalization more generally? So, I would submit that to you as worth reading. Krzysztof tweets about that as well, and you can find it all there. If you'll permit me, Jill, one other recommendation- which is not an article so much as a blog generally. That is the Afronomics blog, has become invaluable to my work and understanding not just what's happening in the African continent, but much more broadly tracking different trade institution experimentation, beyond trade. It's more than that. It's investment in sovereign debt, it's a lot. So, if folks are not keeping tabs on the Afronomics blog and all the great resources that it has to offer, then definitely make sure you do that.

Jill O'Donnell: Terrific. Thank you, Kathleen. We'll be watching your continued progress with your research with a lot of interest here. Again, I just want to thank you for this really, really enlightening conversation. Thank you so much for being on this podcast today.

That's it for this episode of Trade Matters. Thanks for listening and a big thank you to Alex Voichoskie and Jacy Thoman for helping produce this podcast. Opinions expressed on Trade Matters are solely those of the guest or host and not the Yeutter Institute or University of Nebraska-Lincoln.