Preferential Trade Agreements

The focus of this project is PTAs and the preferences of citizens and firms. It investigates how the content and design of PTAs can affect preferences and in particular overall support.

PTAs have become increasingly complex and involve several policy domains, thereby exemplifying the multi-dimensionality of trade policy. Trade agreements not only deal with measures at the border (i.e. tariffs and quotas), but also encompass other provisions, which traditionally have been part of the domestic regulatory realm, such as migration, labour rights, environmental commitments, competition policy, government procurement, and intellectual property rights.


This increase in the scope of trade agreements has created new cleavages as more and more groups in society are affected. Presently, some of the fiercest debates on trade policy concern the relationship between trade and the environment, social standards and migration, with some of these cleavages becoming as profound as the traditional conflicts between economic classes and sectors. In this project we examine citizens’ preferences concerning preferential trade agreements. We are interested in how the inclusion of measures, for instance to grant immigrants working permits, protect the environment, or ensure social standards, alters the level of support for PTAs.


In addition to survey experiments with individual citizens, we also implement a similar analysis for firms. We are interested in which of the aforementioned factors (e.g. social standards, working permits for immigrants, inclusion/exclusion of specific sectors etc.) influence firms’ policy positions on PTAs. Our original executive survey experiment will permit us to test various micro-implications of competing trade models and other theoretical explanations about a firm’s trade policy preferences.

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