All entries for Sunday 19 March 2006

March 19, 2006

Our Project's Timetable

Milestones and Targets throughout the duration of the project:

Term 1 Week 10/Christmas vacation: Continue preliminary research.

Term 2 Week 3: Preliminary research finished. Begin in-depth research. (This will involve an in-depth study of the statistics obtained, searching for specialist books/articles on the subject and meeting and interviewing key people, as outlined below.)

Term 2 Weeks 4–10: In-depth research: touring libraries in the UK, potentially meeting with British MEP’s, visiting the local EU Office in London, travel preparations for trip to Brussels.

Easter Vacation: Travel to Brussels for a week to interview EU functionaries, press spokespeople, and MEP’s. Begin compiling of research.

Term 3, after exams: Finish compiling of research. Begin drafting report on findings. Start promoting project among academics (see dissemination plan).

Term 3 Week 10: Finish summary report and submit it to the Reinvention Center.

Summer vacation: Finish drafting report on findings. Draft possible academic journal article(s). Forward findings to EU functionaries and MEP’s who collaborated.

Academic Year 2006/7 Term 1 Approx. Weeks 3–4: Publish summarized findings in student media. Publicize seminar.

Term 1 Approx. Week 5–7: Hold seminar. (see dissemination plan)
Estimated Completion date: November 2006.


Our Project's Rationale

This project affords us the opportunity to explore, through our very own research, some of the themes and develop many of the skills that are being covered by our respective syllabi while at the same time retaining in the interdisciplinary element of our degree courses. In other words, it allows us to put into practice many of the ideas and techniques we have been learning about in lectures and seminars, particularly in the fields of economics, econometrics, and political economy. By actually travelling and being in the field doing research, this project will allow us to broaden our horizons and delve into several alternative sources of knowledge that conventional University teaching only marginally explores.

Similarly, we will be able to develop a range of research skills, the combination of which is uncommon in our disciplines: compiling statistical data, interpreting key policy documents, interviewing functionaries and politicians.

Our project is very much related to our own respective degree curricula. One of the assignments in our core Econometrics module, for instance, will be asking us to compile our own data and perform an econometric analysis of it, something our project will be incorporating. Furthermore, many of the economic issues pertaining to trade that we will be exploring are addressed by our compulsory Economics module, while issues of political economy and trade, key to this project, figure quite prominently in a core Politics and International Studies module.

Similarly, this project could quite easily be linked to a dissertation in our third year of undergraduate study at University.


Our Project: An Outline

The European Union (EU) has a number of preferential bilateral trade agreements with third parties that allow these countries more favorable trading terms and access to the European market. What is more, bilateral trade agreements are never just simply that; they also address issues of economic cooperation and development, and are often conditional on the meeting of specific political and institutional criteria. The Cotonou Agreement, its precursor the Lomé Convention, and the “Barcelona process” of Euro-Mediterranean integration, are just a few examples of this sort of agreement. Given the seemingly obvious economic benefits, why have most of the world’s states not already signed such an agreement with the EU?

Whereas it seems, a priori, that economic considerations do play a role in the EU’s bilateral trade agreements, political and strategic factors are, in fact, very heavily at play. As a result, this project will attempt to reconcile both an economic approach to the question with one focusing on political economy.

Firstly, we will undertake an econometric analysis of the EU’s trade patterns with third parties to attempt to discern any possible economic motives in its signing of bilateral trade agreements. We hope to be able to determine a relationship between several variables, basing ourselves on existing models such as the “Gravity Theory of Trade.” This will include an examination of the markets of states both benefiting from and lacking bilateral trade agreements with the EU, the nature of such states’ trade with the EU, and possible economic interests in formalizing (and institutionalizing) a particular commercial relationship through a bilateral agreement.

This latter element of our more conventional economic analysis will lead into a more critical examination of the motives prompting both parties to sign (or not sign) such agreements. Having formulated an econometric model of trade between EU countries and a variety of trading parties, we will then undertake a much more detailed case study of the nature of the trade patterns for a bilateral trade agreement with the EU and for one which is not the subject of such an agreement, where special heed will be taken of political and other non-economic interests that condition the EU’s trade agreements. Through subsequent inference, hopefully an insightful conclusion will be reached as to what factors weigh more heavily in the EU’s and third parties’ decision-making processes when they consider the drafting and signing of trade agreements.

Given the wide range of approaches inherent to this project, several different analytical tools will be used: statistics, obtained from the European Union’s statistical service EuroStat, will be analyzed; key EU documents will similarly be examined, including the texts of significant trade/cooperation agreements; several European functionaries in both the Commission and the Council will be interviewed on policy considerations when considering the EU’s external trade.


March 2006

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