Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

Social Debate on Free Trade Agreements: Illusions versus Reality

Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

Social Debate on Free Trade Agreements: Illusions versus Reality

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

Nowadays the Free Trade Agreements (FTA-s) have been causing lots of controversies. New wave of populism, alter-globalism, and protectionism seem to be quite influential for the public discussion devoted to perspectives of implementing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). For instance, the published report (Bertelsmann Foundation, 2016) shows that there are important differences between Germans and Americans in their attitudes to trade. Only 56% of the German respondents believe increased trade relations with other countries to be something good (27% of the respondents are of the opposite opinion), while in America a positive opinion on the subject is shared by 82% of the respondents (13% of the surveyed people are of the opposite opinion). According to the Eurobarometer survey (2016) a decline in support for the TTIP was reported in 14 Member States, an increase in 9, and the same sentiment in 5. Some intuitive guesses concerning the nature of the social (including this one that is Internet provided) discourse make us suspect that there are not many judgments based on merits that would be involved in it.

The main purpose of this paper is to confront the social perception concerning the FTA with the so-called "expert knowledge". Defining a mismatch between the social perception and the expert knowledge may contribute to better understanding of the controversies on the FTA, as well as to proper defining possible sources of social conflicts and vulnerabilities of the policy implementation level. We want to verify the following hypotheses: there is a mismatch between social perception and expert knowledge on the FTA.

The paper presents results of our research studies conducted on seven Polish web portals and one expert database. It should be mentioned that we also run the pilot survey focused on that issue (see Dzialo, Gawronska-Nowak, Jura, forthcoming). The key results of our pilot survey have been mostly confirmed in a bigger scale. We have also benefited from the pilot survey improving our methodological approach and defining sources of a possible bias in more precise way in this work.

The paper is organised as follows. Section 1 contains description of our data and some methodological remarks. Using content analysis we try to capture some mismatch between facts and social perception in section 2. We focus on the Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) question as a special case study in section 3. Section 4 concludes.

1. Data description and methodological remarks

The study presented in the paper is based on an expert base (37 documents: 20132016) and on seven Polish web portals (91988 documents, no time restriction, just subject keyword filter used:CETA, Jan 2016 - Feb 2017).

1.1. Expert base

The "expert knowledge" data is based on 37 documents, consisting of three basic types of publishing:

* research papers published in Polish academic journals (mostly located in the area of economics, but also social and political sciences),

* economic books,

* economic reports.

Within each group of documents we select a set of sources according to the two following criteria:

* Occurrence of the key-words like: FTA, CETA, TTIP, and other phrases strictly connected with the Free Trade Agreements and combined with the words: analysis, effects, evaluation, etc.

* Names of experts who publish papers/books in the area of international trade and free trade agreements. In the process of selection of the authors, we based on our knowledge about their professionalism and high level of quality of economic debate they present, as well as on the high number of citation of their articles.

We believe that relying on the above-mentioned criteria of selection provides us with quite complete set of the up-to-date and good quality expert level publishing on the FTA. …

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