With the first round of French presidential elections only two days away, history major Andrew Abrams’ research on far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and her National Front party couldn’t be more timely.
Exploring La Pen’s particular brand of protectionism, Abrams was one of five students presenting on global economic issues on Friday during the All Colleges Undergraduate Research Symposium oral presentations.
Abrams argued that the National Front’s focus on French national identity, or “Keeping France ‘French,’” is dictating the party’s trade policy stances, not an allegiance to a particular economic ideology. In fact, Abrams found that the party’s trade policies are often vague or at odds with each other, with messaging that varies geographically and by voter block.
When asked by an audience member to compare the latest U.S. presidential election with the current French elections, Abrams said he could see parallels.
“There’s a lot of existential fear among the working classes, which has manifested itself with the British referendum last summer (Brexit) and with Trump,” said Abrams. “Two of the four French candidates want to pull out of the European Union … one is on the far-right and one is on the far-left.”
“Like Trump and Bernie, maybe,” suggested the audience member.
“Yes,” said Abrams.
Dominick Gianduso ripped his presentation from the headlines, as well. A political science and sociology major, Gianduso explored the efficacy of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in enforcing rules and norms. Given that President Trump just last month said he will not abide by WTO rulings that he finds unfair to the United States, Gianduso asks: Can the U.S. really remain a WTO member but ignore the rules?
Examining case studies, Gianduso found the WTO’s enforcement with non-complying nations weak and that countries continued to be non-compliant even when their conduct was under review.
“If the international community cannot exercise credible means of enforcement, then a country will not act in compliance with international rules and norms,” he hypothesized.
What does this tell us about whether or not the WTO will continue to exist in the future? asked an audience member.
Gianduso replied: For the founding country of the WTO to disregard the organization it created does not speak well for its longevity.
Currents in the Global Economy
These students rounded out the panel of five, all advised by Lawrence Reardon, associate professor of political science.
Melissa Norton, justice studies and political science major
Norton researched the diamond industry in Sierra Leone, and that country’s bitter and bloody civil war. She showed how export demands for valuable commodities, such as diamonds, make civil conflict more likely, especially when a country is poor.
Jesse Vaughan, environmental conservation studies major
Why isn’t the World Bank financing renewable energy in the developing world, despite its public emphasis on sustainable development, asks Vaughan? After demonstrating how the bank funds fossil fuel projects at a higher rate than renewables, Vaughan turned to a case study of Indonesia to show how the World Bank creates and funds political incentives for fossil fuels.
Tianjia Yan, political science and international affairs major
Yan explored the explosion of Chinese travel abroad over the past five years, which she attributes to the relatively new promotion of foreign travel by Chinese leaders; to increased tourism agreements between China and other countries, making travel easier; and to greater wealth among some Chinese.