Students become experts on U.S.-E.U. trade deal

March 11, 2014

By Anna Huffman  ‘17

The eight students enrolled in Dr. Jeanie Bukowski’s European Integration course this semester have a unique opportunity to become experts on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) free trade agreement, thanks to collaboration with the Peoria Area World Affairs Council (PAWAC) and Bradley’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship/ International Trade Center.

PAWAC Executive Director Angela Weck, who is also an adjunct professor in the Institute of International Studies, secured a grant for a program designed to raise awareness in the US about the European Union and the EU-U.S. relationship. The PAWAC program became possible through funding from the Delegation of the EU to the United States, which invited the World Affairs Councils of America to submit a national bid as part of this Engage America grant program. 

Given the importance of the transatlantic trade relationship to the economy of Central Illinois, PAWAC proposed a panel discussion targeting a general audience and a workshop aimed more specifically at the business community, both to be held on Thursday, May 1, 2014. Invited speakers will include officials from several EU member state consulates.

Given the close contact between PAWAC and Bradley’s Institute of International Studies, Weck and Bukowski seized the opportunity to partner with the Turner Center and the Smith Career Center to provide students with a practicum experience in which they will apply their classroom knowledge directly in the Peoria community.

The eight students, William Bessler, Dillon Brenner, Joshua Hatler, Olivia Hollis, Olivia Lu, Lauren Tisza, Dane Watson, and Tom Wrobel, will be involved in planning and marketing the panel and workshop and researching the impact of the proposed T-TIP on Central Illinois businesses.

In addition to developing expertise on the history, institutions and policies of the European Union through their coursework, students are receiving training from Jim Foley, Director of Operations for BU’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship, in navigating the main U.S. and EU databases that provide trade statistics and in analyzing the data flows most important to understanding the impact of the T-TIP on U.S.-EU trade.

Students will use their expertise to produce several deliverable outcomes, including data sheet handouts for the panel discussion and the workshop and reports on the projected impact of the T-TIP on the Central Illinois economy and on local businesses, labor, and the environment. They also will be responsible for communicating with European state consulates and serving as hosts to the consulate guests and presenters during the May 1 program.

“This is an invaluable opportunity for students to apply directly knowledge they gain in the classroom first to understand the impact of the proposed T-TIP free trade deal on Illinois and second, as experts themselves, to disseminate this knowledge in the Peoria community,” said Bukowski.

Participating in the PAWAC program also will give students a superb opportunity to interact with community and business representatives in addition to European consulate officials. “Networking should never be undersold,” Weck said. “The speakers at this panel will be accessible to students and the general public to meet and exchange business information, and this will be an excellent tool for career planning.”

These Bradley students quite literally are bringing the European Union to Central Illinois, while developing important career skills.

“Considering that Europe is one of the most critical trading partners the United States has, the knowledge and experience we are receiving is very pragmatic,” Bessler said. “Everyone will be able to apply these new skills to future endeavors.”