The Changing Landscape of Trade Agreements (Spring 2014)

Eoin Gahan, M-RCBG Senior Fellow

This study group looks at trends in trade negotiations and in global trade generally that are interesting in policy terms. Trade negotiations are becoming more fragmented, with regional agreements seeming to replace the search for global agreements. Yet there are some policy areas, such as in trade facilitation, where the global approach is still quite strong, and this will also be discussed. Global value chains are of growing importance in world trade, and analysis of these is becoming more comprehensive. This will be reviewed, as will the trade statistics systems that underlie policy analysis. The Group will also look at Genetic Modification (GM) and its processes and products, which have been a highly contentious issue in international trade negotiations and may be particularly interesting in terms of the proposed TTIP and TPP agreements. The Group will meet at least four times, according to the schedule below.
All meetings will be held on Tuesdays, 11:45-1:00, in the Hauser Conference Room, B-L-4. Lunch will be provided. Interested students should write to Eoin Gahan at to join the group. Harvard students, faculty, and staff all welcome.

Preliminary Schedule

February 18, 2014: Fragmentation and facilitation
The recent developments in regional trade agreements will be summarised, focusing on particular policy issues identified and any interactions between them. There will also be an overview of trade facilitation and international consensus on this issue, including ongoing international work on standards for trade-related data.

February 25: Advocacy and the forces of change
An overview of advocacy and the role of different groups in trade negotiations, and a review of a business representative body and its activities in trade negotiations, a view on the prospects for TTIP and TPP, and a wider discussion of the way in which the world financial crisis has provided a new impetus for regional agreements and governance structures.
Guest Speaker: Gary Litman, Vice President, International Strategic Initiatives, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
March 4: Genetic Modification and international trade
Review of the contentious issues of GM products in international trade negotiations, in conjunction with an overview of the general topic of genetic modification, with some detail on the industrial applications, on the regulatory issues and different regulatory approaches internationally.
Guest Speaker: Louis St.L. O'Dea, Chief Medical Officer, Head of Regulatory Affairs, Senior Vice President at Moderna Therapeutics Inc.

March 11: Trade statistics and global value chains
Review of the UN role in trade statistics, including a discussion of the issues for merchandise and services trade. The Group will look at statistical definitions and the significance of global value chains (GVCs) and the work under way internationally in this area. Cloud computing and the future of trade statistics will also be discussed. 
Guest Speaker: Ronald Jansen, Chief, Trade Statistics Branch, United Nations Statistics Division, New York, USA

Eoin Gahanhas long experience in international and national government policy for industry, technology, trade, and investment. Until 2013, he was Head of the Trade, Environment, and Survey Analysis Department in Forfás, which is the Irish government agency for enterprise policy. His trade policy work has included the preparation of economic cooperation programmes, trade, and investment strategy for high-growth markets, trade facilitation issues, the potential impact of trade agreements, European integration, and the implications of new technologies for economic activity. He has also led work on socio-economic scenarios for 2025, long-term energy strategy, and Next Generation Networks implications and requirements. Earlier, he was a co-founder and director of an international consultancy in regulatory reform, and has carried out assignments for international and national organizations in regulation and competitiveness policy, including the World Bank, OECD, UNIDO, and other bodies. Previously, in Forfás, he directed the research of the National Competitiveness Council and instituted the Annual Competitiveness Reports. He also led the Irish Government’s initiative to prepare the business sector for the changeover from the national currency to the euro. Until 1995 he was a senior official in UNIDO dealing with long-term development objectives, regional and national strategies for industrialisation, technology analysis, and economic forecasting, and was also Coordinator of the United Nations Industrial Development Decade for Africa. As a senior fellow, Gahan’s research will focus on the fragmentation and complexity of trade negotiations and the additional challenges generated for trade policy. His faculty sponsor is Robert Z. Lawrence, Albert L. Williams Professor of International Trade and Investment. email:

Todd Baker headshot.

M-RCBG senior fellow Eoin Gahan.