The United States is in the process of negotiating two massive trade agreements: Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). What is the likelihood that the United States signs these agreements? How has the Republican takeover of the Senate affected the likelihood of concluding these agreements?
To answer these questions I conducted a second Poll of Political Scientists (POPS). This pool specifically draws on the expertise of political scientists working on issues of international trade by harnessing the potential reviewer pool from the academic journal International Interactions. (For more on the costs and benefits of this sampling strategy, see here. For the first POPS poll, see here.) Michael Colaresi, co-editor of International Interactions, identified a total of 66 experts and contacted them via e-mail to participate in this survey on Jan. 5, 2015. We received 30 completed surveys.
First, I asked if the Republican takeover would make the passage of the TTIP more likely. Fifty-seven percent of respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with this. Only 30 percent disagreed.
I then asked if giving the president fast-track trade authority would make passing trade agreements in general more likely. An overwhelming 82 percent agreed or strongly agreed.
But how likely is likely? To address this question I fielded two questions similar to those fielded by the Good Judgment Project (GJP). Michael Horowitz at GJP provided the exact wording of their questions. Specifically, we asked experts to estimate the probability of the United States passing the TTIP and TPP before June 10, 2015, under two conditions: if President Obama were granted fast track authority and if he were not.
The results for both the TTIP and TPP are strikingly similar. If Obama were not granted fast-track authority, the mean probability of passage was 20 percent for each agreement. If the president were granted fast-track authority, the probability roughly doubles — to 40 percent for the TTIP and 48 percent for the TPP.
We can compare these results to those obtained by the GJP. It focuses on generating accurate crowd-sourced forecasts on geopolitical and economic topics. GJP surveys several thousand forecasters around the country on these topics and has a track record of accuracy.
On Nov, 13, 2014, the GJP fielded an identical survey question on TPP, asking respondents if negotiations will be completed by June 9, 2015. GJP forecasters were more pessimistic, giving this event a 33 percent chance if the president were granted fast-track trade authority and a 9 percent chance if he were not.
GJP also fielded a TTIP question on Nov. 20, 2014, although with an important difference. Their question asked if negotiations on TTIP would be concluded by June 9, 2015, based on whether the United States and the European Union have decided to include a contentious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision or if they had not decided to do this. In both cases, the forecast probabilities were tiny — 6 percent and 3 percent respectively.
GJP forecasts are dynamic, since forecasters can update their predictions every day. GJP’s forecasts on the probability of TPP or TTIP concluding have declined on both questions since that point. As of Jan. 17, GJP predicts just a 25 percent chance of TPP concluding if fast-track authority passes, and 7 percent otherwise. The same model predicts a 4 percent chance of TTIP concluding if there is an ISDS provision and 1 percent otherwise.
Both sets of forecasts highlight the importance of fast-track trade authority. Yet these two surveys differ in their baseline probabilities — with political scientists considerably more optimistic about a trade agreement than the wider pool for respondents from the Good Judgment Project.
This is the second post based on a semi-regular Poll of Political Scientists (POPS) fielded by Nathan Jensen at the George Washington University School of Business.