Norwegian version

Darkness on the horizon? Exploring the response to contestation of trade policy in Europe

Free trade is under pressure. Fear of job losses and growing inequality has given rise to calls for protectionism and economic nationalism.

Compensatory policies are one potential solution to shore up support for trade. The primary objective of TradeCont is to determine whether people are convinced by compensatory measures to alleviate adverse consequences of globalization, and if so, what specific measures are more successful and why.

  • More about the project

    Recent trade talks in the European Union have been met with unprecedented levels of contestation. The essence of the conflict is the distributional consequences resulting from economic globalization. Although free trade might lead to economic growth, it also privileges some groups over others, which potentially gives rise to increasing inequality. As a result, policy-makers face the challenge of both making sure that they capitalize on the benefits of trade, whilst also taking care of those who are vulnerable to exposure from globalization. A key argument in the literature is that open economies are better at compensating those who are at the losing end of globalization. The rationale behind compensatory policies is to reduce negative attitudes toward trade. But is this really so? The goal of TradeCont is to analyse the politics of compensation and explore the potential for adjustment policies to boost support for free trade.

    The project sets out to answer two questions: 1) What is the effect of compensatory politics on public opinion? TradeCont will run a public opinion survey with an embedded survey experiment in five EU countries to study how information about compensation initiatives can create greater support for free trade. A key aim of the project is also to investigate whether  compensation policies might counteract other drivers of negative attitudes towards trade. 2) Do politicians think that compensatory measures are key to shoring up support for a liberal trade policy? This will be tackled through a study of party manifestos to see whether and how politicians suggest compensatory measures in response to the increasing contestation of trade. TradeCont will provide a systematic account of the underlying mechanisms that link support for economic openness and compensatory politics and its findings will inform the debate about the social sustainability of future trade policy.

  • Participants

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