Students and faculty from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies had the opportunity to discuss the provisions of a major pending trade agreement with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Congressman Sam Farr at an invitation-only February 16 roundtable.
The event was hosted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute at its Moss Landing headquarters and included Ambassador Froman, Congressman Farr, local business and environmental leaders, aquarium staff, and two faculty members and three students from the Middlebury Institute. Froman and Farr convened the roundtable to discuss the ocean and fishery protection provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the wide-ranging trade agreement recently signed by 12 nations. With review by the U.S. Congress still pending, TPP advocates are seeking to build support for the agreement.
Dr. Michael McGinnis of the Institute’s International Environmental Policy program, also a researcher with the Institute’s Center for the Blue Economy, expressed concerns about the impact of globalization on local ecosystems like the Monterey Bay, citing the example of individual fisheries suddenly feeling the impact of global demand. Acknowledging the validity of this concern, Ambassador Froman noted that, regardless, “globalization exists, and will continue to” and trade agreements like the TPP provide a common structure of environmental regulations that all signatories must abide by.
Other Middlebury Institute participants included Dr. Robert Rogowsky, chair of the Institute’s International Trade & Economic Policy program, and students Chris Watson MAITED ’16, Sorina Seeley MAIEP ’17, and Shaun Richards MAIEP ’17.
Richards commented on the “eclectic series of questions” participants asked, saying that “This event helped broaden my understanding and dealt with issues that are very important to me.” During the discussion, he was able to ask Ambassador Froman a question about how the TPP’s fishery protection provisions will be monitored and enforced. “I really enjoyed participating and speaking with everyone after the discussion.”
Students and faculty stayed on to observe the post-roundtable press briefing offered by Congressman Farr—an alumnus of the Institute’s Summer Intensive Language Program—and Ambassador Froman. “The Pew Institute has estimated that to delay this even one year will cost the American people $94 billion — that’s $700 per American family,” said Froman at the briefing. “Alternatively, we can be reducing these barriers, exporting more, supporting more good jobs here, and raising standards around the world.”
“This trade agreement for the first time sets down really strong standards for labor and the environment,” said Farr. “It’s not perfect, but then, politics never is.”
The 12 countries that have signed on to the TPP are the U.S., Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.
Rogowsky summed up the event as “a great opportunity for students and faculty members to have a substantive dialogue directly with policy-makers working on a major international trade agreement.”