International Conference in Chicago to Tackle Contentious Trade Issues

October 24, 2013
October 24, 2013 - Trade has recently leapt to the forefront of the economic and foreign policy agenda. The recent government shutdown forced the Obama administration to cancel summit appearances for two major trade negotiations, each supposed to conclude within roughly a year.

At this critical time, senior economists, policy practitioners, business leaders, academics, and thought leaders from around the world will convene in Chicago on October 29 and 30, for an international conference, “Frontiers of Economic Integration.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is at the heart of the Obama administration’s trade policy and a key element of its pivot to Asia. Its participants have set a goal of concluding it this year, even though the Washington budget fight kept President Obama from attending a key meeting.

Meanwhile, European leaders have staked their economic hopes for growth on a free trade agreement with the United States, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It was intended to conclude next year – a tight timeline that became even tighter when the U.S. Trade Representative cancelled a negotiating session because of the shutdown. Each of these agreements raises politically charged issues, such as the proper treatment of labor, or the right approach to financial regulation.

One of the few issues on which Congress could agree in recent months has been the need for enforceable currency measures in trade agreements. Sixty senators called for such measures, along with a majority of the House of Representatives. The only problem is that U.S. trading partners almost uniformly oppose the idea.

The conference, hosted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs in partnership with Northwestern University’s Center for International Economic Development and Kellogg School of Management, and The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, will examine the state of global trade and what the near and medium term will bring. International partnering organizations include the Brazilian Institute for Economic Research, the European Centre for International Political Economy, the National School of Development at Peking University, and The Tokyo Foundation.

Distinguished speakers such as Dr. Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia Business School, will discuss what has happened with trade since the financial crisis. Panels of international experts will address prospects for the TPP and the agreement with Europe. Former U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab will talk about prospects for the WTO, on the eve of Bali. The treatment of currency will be debated between former Gov. Matt Blunt, now leading the American Automotive Policy Council, and Dr. Yu Yongding, a leading Chinese voice on currency matters. Dr. Yu is currently visiting The Chicago Council as the Dr. Scholl Foundation Fellow. All of these sessions will offer opportunities for attendees to pose questions to the experts.

Former Governor of Michigan John Engler will deliver the keynote address the evening of October 29 at 6:00 p.m. at the Standard Club, 320 S. Plymouth Court. Governor Engler’s keynote address is open to the public. The sessions on Oct. 30 will take place at The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and are by invitation only. Media are invited to attend. View the conference agenda. Pre-registration is required. Media must RSVP to Samantha Skinner, or 312-821-7507, by noon on October 29.

Philip I. Levy, senior fellow on the global economy for The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, organized the conference and is author and editor of the new blog, which will feature commentary from conference participants. Levy, who was a White House and State Department economist during President George W. Bush’s administration, joined the Council in August.

This conference is made possible by support from The Cooper Family Foundation, Charles Moore and the Banc Funds Company, and Chicago Council Board treasurer Leah Joy Zell, founder and portfolio manager of Lizard Investors LLC.