Press Release: New Report Outlines Progressive Trade Policy Agenda

New York – A new report from the Great Democracy Initiative, A Blueprint for a New American Trade Policy, proposes a transformational agenda for trade policy. Report authors Timothy Meyer and Ganesh Sitaraman argue that there need to be radical changes to the way trade policy is made in order to address economic inequality and national security concerns; confront the negative economic consequences of trade liberalization for millions of workers; and make the trade policy process less susceptible to capture by well-funded and well-connected industry groups.

“In spite of the importance of trade policy to the 2016 elections and the current trade war with China, America still does not have a coherent trade policy, said Timothy Meyer, FedEx Research professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School. “Our proposals offer a way forward for the United States to develop a real strategy on trade – one that addresses both foreign policy and domestic economic concerns, while also opening up access to the policymaking process in this area.”

The report proposes sweeping reforms for domestic trade policymaking, including restructuring the Department of Commerce, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and other agencies into a new Department of Economic Growth and Security, and increasing transparency and participation in the trade policymaking process. It also suggests conducting geographic impact assessments prior to adopting trade agreements, and reforming the President’s powers to initiate trade conflicts unilaterally – such as the so-called section 232 and 301 powers upon which President Trump has relied to impose substantial tariffs on steel and aluminum globally, as well as a wide range of Chinese products.

The report also offers an agenda to address the economic consequences of trade agreements, including conditioning U.S. trade on addressing tax havens; expanding enforcement of labor and environmental issues; enabling domestic economic development projects, particularly for areas adversely impacted by trade liberalization; and taxing the winners from trade agreements in order to fund programs to help areas negatively impacted by trade deals.

“Like too many areas of policy, trade has not worked for millions of Americans. We need a trade policy that isn’t rigged to work for the wealthy and well-connected and that will address economic inequality here at home,” said Ganesh Sitaraman, co-founder of the Great Democracy Initiative.

The report is the fifth from the Great Democracy Initiative, and it follows on reports outlining blueprints for regulating tech platforms, fighting corruption in government, proposing a public option for banking, and reforming antitrust law and policy.

About the Authors

Timothy Meyer is the FedEx Research Professor of Law and Director of the International Legal Studies Program at Vanderbilt University Law School. Prior to teaching, Tim served as an attorney-adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State. He is the author of numerous articles on international economic law, public international law, and U.S. foreign relations law.

Ganesh Sitaraman is the Co-founder and Director of Policy for the Great Democracy Initiative. He is also a chancellor’s faculty fellow and professor of law at Vanderbilt University. Ganesh served as policy director to Senator Elizabeth Warren during her Senate campaign, and then as her senior counsel in the U.S. Senate. He is the author of The Crisis of the Middle- Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic and The Counterinsurgent’s Constitution: Law in the Age of Small Wars, which won the 2013 Palmer Prize for Civil Liberties.

About the Great Democracy Initiative

The Great Democracy Initiative seeks to develop bold, progressive, and actionable policy plans for leaders seeking solutions to key issues facing our country. Instead of proposing technocratic tweaks or layering new programs on top of a broken system, the Great Democracy Initiative targets the structural problems facing our democracy, including unaccountable policymakers, corporations with outsized economic and political power, and policies that subtly stack the deck against average Americans. Learn more at