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Europe and the World (EATW)

The EATW stream investigates the interplay between the European Union and the rest of the world. This involves cross-disciplinary research encompassing several fields, including international economics, international political economy, international law, and international relations.

This research unit focuses mainly on four broad research themes. These are: (1) the legal and political aspects of EU relations with third countries; (2) the organization of international economic activities; (3) the economic effects of international trade and investment; and (4) the social and political implications of globalization.


Paola Mariani, Bocconi University

The EU trade deals in force with third western European countries fall in the general category of the first-generation free trade agreements concluded before 2006. In 2020, in a completely new scenario, the EU negotiated and concluded a trade agreement with the UK, recently turned into a third county, and tried in vain to renegotiate the bilateral relationship with Switzerland. Despite the differences between the two countries and their previous relations with the Union, in both cases the usually accepted EU models of trade cooperation with neighboring states have been contested. A deep economic cooperation based on differentiated levels of participation in the internal market and acceptance of its basic rules seems to be no longer appealing. The project aims at analyzing the legal implications of opening the internal market to non-members in order to critically assess the strategy of the Union and looks for different patterns of trade cooperation in Europe.

Carlo Altomonte, Bocconi University — Gianmarco Ottaviano, Bocconi University — Armando Rungi, IMT Lucca — Tommaso Sonno, University of Bologna

The organizational forms of firms have become increasingly complex and articulated over the last decades, with the building up of multifaceted business groups (BGs) both within and across countries, as well as the emergence of GVCs. At the same time, global challenges have redefined the concept of competitiveness shifting the focus from tangibles and cost management to the firms’ ability to develop intangibles and preserve knowledge. Accounting for all these changes requires going beyond the traditional theory of firm organization. Our aim is thus to integrate knowledge into the theory of organization of the firm. One research line will propose (and test with data) a theory of BGs as “knowledge-based” hierarchies designed to create and transmit BG-specific knowledge capital within its boundaries in a world of incomplete contracts, thus protecting such capital from external dissipation. Another strand of research, to be integrated in the former, will elaborate a theory of GVCs as organizations in a world of imperfect Intellectual Property Rights.

Italo Colantone, Bocconi University — Gianmarco Ottaviano, Bocconi University, Piero Stanig, Bocconi University

In this research project we focus on the backlash of globalization: the political shift of voters and parties towards isolationist positions, with substantive implications in terms of enacted policies. In our work, we: (1) document the backlash; (2) provide an overview of its drivers; (3) assess to what extent the backlash is endogenous to the distributional consequences of globalization, and to what extent it is driven by other economic and political factors; (4) discuss the policy implications. The theoretical analysis identifies what we name as the “social footprint of globalization.” The main idea is that globalization, on top of generating trade-related adjustment costs, may also entail permanent costs (“pains from trade”) related to unsolved reallocation-related problems (“social footprint of globalization”). This may provide a theoretical explanation for the globalization backlash in the presence of long-lasting socio-economic distress.

Italo Colantone, Bocconi University — PIero Stanig, Bocconi University — Paolo Agnolin, Bocconi University

We investigate the impact of globalization on people's attitudes in fifteen Western European countries, over the 1988-2008 period. We employ data from the European Social Survey (ESS) and the European Values Study (EVS). We compute a time-varying, region-specific measure of exposure to Chinese imports, based on the historical industry specialization of each region. We assess for each individual the import shock in the region of residence in the years prior to the survey. We analyze the impact of exposure to foreign imports on individual attitudes concerning support for democracy and liberal values, the role of immigration, cultural traditionalism, and national pride. The aim of the project is to shed light on the channels through which economic distress caused by globalization may translate into stronger support for nationalist and radical-right parties.

Valentina Bosetti, Bocconi University — Italo Colantone, Bocconi University — Charlotte Bez, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna — Maurizio Zanardi, University of Surrey

Protecting the environment and fighting climate change are key policy priorities. It is then crucial to understand the drivers of support for green policies, especially since these policies tend to produce sizable distributional consequences, with some people being more affected than others. As a canonical example, the closure of a polluting factory improves environmental conditions in an area, but creates at the same time a number of relative losers, i.e. the laid-off workers of the factory itself. In this research project, we investigate the connection between trade exposure, green attitudes and voting behavior, both in the European Union and in the Unites States.

Lorenzo Gasbarri, Bocconi University

The research focuses on the legal status of the EU in international relations. Under international law, the EU is often depicted as a sui generis institution, characterized by a very special process of integration of the member states’ legal systems. Definitions such as ‘supranational’ and ‘regional economic integration’ organization are usually employed to distinguish it from other international organizations. However, it remains unclear how these qualifications affect the international legal regimes in which the EU operates. From an internal perspective, the quantity and quality of the competences attributed to the organization are the key elements that characterize the exceptional nature of the EU as a global actor. However, from an external perspective, it is not clear how a purely internal issue such as the attribution of competences affects the status of the EU vis-à-vis third countries. International and EU lawyers struggle to find a proper external representation of the internal peculiarities of the EU. Against this background, the research focuses on fundamental questions about the capacity of the EU to contribute to the formation of international law, undertake international obligations and be held responsible for their violations. The research project has three main aims: to describe the status of the EU under international law, to assess the norms developed to deal with the so-called exceptional status of the EU, and to propose normative frameworks more compatible with the delicate balance between internal and external perspectives.

Leonardo Borlini, Bocconi University - Alessandra Arcuri, Erasmus University of Rotterdam

One of the key areas to achieve inclusive prosperity is food safety and sustainability. Various rules to attain these goals are set locally and globally by a mix of private and public regulatory instruments. Regulation concerning the environment, food safety, public health and even human rights is increasingly scrutinized for its compatibility with the law of the World Trade Organization (WTO). While food safety is a topic of increasing importance – and contention – on the global, regional and domestic scale for developed and developing countries alike, it rarely receives systematic and detailed attention in public debates. This is understandable given that it is often regarded as a specialized subfield of international trade law. Interestingly enough, the negotiations of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) chapter within mega-regional treaties, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and the CETA did not receive much public attention. This research will be the first study to map and compare the provisions concerning food safety and food sustainability regimes in Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) negotiated by the EU, US, and China. This research will also be the first to study how trade rules of new-generation PTAs favor (or stifle) not only food safety, but also food sustainability governance regimes. Special attention will be devoted to EU policy initiatives to advance food sustainability both within the European single market and externally.

Andrea Colli, Bocconi University

The project focuses on the understanding of the crisis of the present globalization. After having identified six determinants which do promote processes of integration (i.e. technology, institutions, culture, international relations, geopolitical equilibria and domestic politics) the project looks at their global dynamics during the two centuries going from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to the present. During this time frame, at least two waves of global integration (measured by economic, social, cultural and political indicators) can be identified. The first, peaked around the beginning of the 20th century, has given room to a long deglobalization process which lasted from the interwar period to the Cold War. The second started with processes of regional reintegration (e.g. the Rome Treaty) and decolonization during the 1950s and 1960s and has progressively accelerated after the end of the Cold War up to the present. The aim of the project is to understand more in depth what has turned the first globalization wave into its opposite, and to develop such historical knowledge in order to better understand the possible futures of the present global integration.