BP/EUI Essay Contest 2001

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"Five BP Essay Contest winners are joined by Commission President Romano Prodi at the First Annual Lecture of the BP Chair in Transatlantic Relations at EUI, 9 May 2001. Pictured (from left) are Guy de Jonquieres (third prize), Dirk De Bievre (first prize-under thirty), Peter Sutherland (Chairman, BP Essay Contest Jury), President Prodi, Michael B. Currie (Honorable Mention), Patrick Masterson (President, EUI), Adrian Taylor (first prize-over thirty), and Jens Steffek (fourth prize).

The BP/EUI Essay Contest was an essay contest on US-EU transalantic relations held in 2001, run by David J. Vogel [1], the BP Chair in Transatlantic Relations, at the Robert Schumann Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute, Via dei Roccettini 9, I-51006 San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), in Italy.

It was a contest sponsored by BP [2] and the European University Institute (EUI) [3]. It was advertised in a 1-page ad in the Economist magazine, where a young Michael Currie saw the ad and was inspired to participate.

The prizes were awarded to the essay contest winners in a ceremony following the First Annual Lecture of the BP Chair in Transatlantic Relations, to be delivered by European Commission President Romano Prodi [4] on 9 May 2001 at the EUI.

Contest winners

"The United States must treat the European Union like an adolescent, and no longer like a child," writes Adrian Taylor, the winner of one of two €10,000 first prizes in the BP/EUI Essay Contest on the resolution and prevention of US-EU trade disputes.

Transatlantic trade disputes have arisen in a growing number of areas, argues Taylor in his prize-winning essay, including hormone-treated beef, genetically modified foods, data privacy, and tax breaks for US exporters, yet the existing tools of transatlantic diplomacy have thus far failed to resolve such disputes promptly and prevent future disputes from arising. The solution to such disputes, he says, lies not in the creation of a North Atlantic Free Trade Area, which remains politically out of reach, but rather in a series of realistic changes in the institutions of both sides. These should strive for greater integration of economic and foreign policy considerations, and a greater emphasis on negotiation rather than legal confrontation within the World Trade Organization. Above all, Taylor argues, the United States should move towards a sustained dialogue on both economic and security issues with the European Union, which should in turn take up a greater share of the burden of managing the global economy.

Taylor, at the time of the contest in 2001 a project executive at Thinktools A.G. in Zurich, was one of six prize-winners announced today by the BP Chair in Transatlantic Relations at the European University Institute in Florence, and selected by a five-person jury of eminent Europeans and Americans, headed by BP Chairman Peter Sutherland. The essay contest, which was open to Europeans and Americans of all ages, invited entrants to reflect upon the underlying causes of transatlantic economic disputes, and to propose specific mechanisms whereby the United States and the European Union might prevent future disputes from arising, and settle amicably the disputes that may occasionally arise within the transatlantic partnership. All essays were submitted to the judges anonymously, and the jury selected five prize-winners, and a sixth winner of an honorable mention prize, during a meeting in Florence on 21 April. Taylor's essay was awarded one of two €10,000 first prizes. The other, for entrants under 30, was awarded to Dirk De Bièvre [5], in 2001 a Ph.D. candidate at the European University Institute.

Dirk De Bièvre receives his prize from Romano Prodi, 9 May 2001, Florence, Italy

De Bièvre also reviews US-EU trade disputes over subjects such as hormone-treated beef and bananas, and argues that such disputes are an inevitable and arguably a desirable state of affairs among two close trading partners both of whom are committed to the rules of the World Trade Organization. In recent years, however, the US and EU have become mired in increasingly bitter and intractable disputes involving larger political and ethical concerns about the development, health and the environment which the WTO is not currently designed to address. De Bièvre puts forward two recommendations designed to limit the damage from such sensitive transatlantic disputes. First, he suggests that the US and EU establish ad hoc bilateral committees of EU parliamentarians, US members of Congress and experts from both parties to examine the underlying causes of specific disputes and propose negotiated solutions rather than WTO litigation. Second, he proposes that the WTO move away from its current practice of authorizing members to impose retaliatory tariffs against other members in breach of their commitments. "Retaliation," according to De Bièvre, "has proved to have all the confounding characteristics of a real weapon. As long as it is not used, it seems to entice parties into compliance, but as soon as it is actually used," as in the transatlantic beef-hormones and bananas disputes, "it proves to hurt both the user and the attacked." For this reason, he suggests that the WTO shift from its current system of authorizing punitive tariffs against offenders, to a new system in which offending countries would be obligated to offer increased market access to their trading partners.

Jury members praised both first-prize winners for their careful analysis of the underlying causes of transatlantic trade disputes, and for their pragmatic, realistic proposals for possible reforms.

The published book of the essays

The jury awarded second, third and fourth prizes (of 5,000, 3,000 and 2,000 euros, respectively) to three other essayists:

  • Michael Johnson [6], an independent advisor on international trade policy in London, won second prize for an essay emphasizing the increased use of an "early warning" system for the identification and negotiation of disputes before they become crises.
  • Guy de Jonquières [7], at the time the World Trade Editor of the Financial Times, received third prize for his essay focusing on actions that could be taken by the US and the EU to minimize the trade-distorting effects of national policies, for example by conducting "trade impact assessments" of proposed legislation and coordinating activities among US and EU regulatory agencies.
  • Jens Steffek [8], at the time another Ph.D. candidate at the European University Institute, was awarded fourth prize for his exploration of the long-standing cultural differences between the US and European approaches to free trade, and proposed a WTO "Council on Trade and Ethics" to examine and discuss the moral questions underlying many transatlantic trade disputes.

The Jury also awarded a special prize of Honorable Mention, of €1,000, to then-18-year-old Michael Currie of Thunder Bay, Ontario, whose essay proposed specific mechanisms both to settle and to prevent transatlantic trade disputes, including bilateral forums on key issues such as biotechnology, agriculture, and data privacy, and the restoration of bilateral funding to the recently suspended Transatlantic Environment Dialogue.

Contest jury

The BP/EUI Essay Contest Jury was chaired by Dr. Peter Sutherland [9] (1946-2018), then Chairman of BP and former Commissioner in charge of competition policy in the European Union as well as Director-General of the WTO. Other members included:

  • Michael Calingaert [10], Executive Director of the Council for the United States and Italy and Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.;
  • Ellen Frost [11], Visiting Scholar at the Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., and author of Transatlantic Trade: A Strategic Agenda (Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics, 1997);
  • Frédéric Jenny [12], Vice President of the French Competition Authority and Chairman of the WTO Working Group on Trade and Competition; and
  • John Peterson, Professor of Politics and Jean Monnet Chair at the University of Glasgow, and author of Europe and America: The Prospects for Partnership, 2nd edition (London: Routledge, 1996).

Sources

Archived contest website [13]

Resolving and Preventing US-EU Trade Disputes: Six prize-winning essays from the BP/EUI transatlantic essay contest. ISSN: 1830-155X, Series/Number: EUI RSCAS DL, Publisher: European University Institute [14] [15]