During a student-led panel at the Yeutter Institute’s international trade conference on October 10, University of Nebraska Law student Sarah Barrett asked former U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator Darci Vetter about possible solutions to U.S.-China trade tensions. Vetter emphasized that the future of the agricultural sectors in the U.S. and China, as well as other sectors, are closely tied together, and that trade is intertwined with other areas of the overall relationship.
“I’ve been thinking a lot more about whether having a trade conversation and an ag productivity conversation and a security conversation separately really gets us to the set of tradeoffs we might need to try and change their [China’s] behavior,” Vetter said.
The Yeutter Institute, a formal collaboration among the Colleges of Law, Business, and Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, is designed to join together the conversations that Vetter described. Her comments highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of international trade, the numerous forces that shape it, and the core mission of the Yeutter Institute: connect relevant disciplines to equip students for successful careers in trade and finance, increase public understanding, and produce new research.
The conference, “What’s on the Horizon for International Trade?” was the Yeutter Institute’s largest event to date, presented in cooperation with the Nebraska Farm Bureau. Attendees—including state government leaders, industry representatives, agriculture producers, university faculty, staff, and students, and the broader Nebraska community—heard from experts about the crisis at the World Trade Organization, the impacts of retaliatory tariffs on Nebraska’s economy, how free trade agreement negotiations are re-making the competitive landscape, and possible scenarios for the outcome of current U.S. negotiations with China.
Our early successes around opportunities for students to grow in their knowledge and confidence in working with these issues are creating a sense of community around the Yeutter Institute Jill O’Donnell
The daylong discussion underscored the need for graduates from many different disciplines to be involved in international trade, from scientists who can address technical and new digital aspects of trade to legal strategists in government or business, to journalists who cover these issues for the public, and scholars who research new frontiers in economics, supply chains and international relations.
“There is a place in the Yeutter Institute for students from every major,” said Yeutter Institute director Jill O’Donnell. “Our first undergraduate course offering was a striking example of that, with students representing over a dozen majors from three different colleges who came together for a simulated trade negotiation.”
The one-credit course, offered in February 2019, featured guest lecturer Andrea Durkin, a veteran U.S. trade negotiator and editor-in-chief of TradeVistas who teaches a similar course at Georgetown University. For law and graduate students, the institute offered a fall 2019 course through the College of Law called “International Trade: Agriculture, Food and Wine,” taught by visiting professor David Morfesi, Special Counsel and Director of International Trade at MinterEllison, Australia’s largest law firm. Morfesi will return to teach another course in spring 2020.
The Yeutter Institute was the vision of Nebraska native, University of Nebraska alumnus and former U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Clayton Yeutter. President George H.W. Bush once called Yeutter “a game changer in the area of trade and finance.” He led negotiations that resulted in the U.S-Canada Free Trade Agreement, opened the Japanese market to U.S. beef, citrus, and semiconductors, and played a critical role in launching the negotiations that resulted in the creation of the World Trade Organization. The NU Board of Regents approved the creation of the Yeutter Institute in December 2017. Jill O’Donnell began as the institute’s first director in July 2018. Dr. John Beghin began on June 1, 2019 as the new Michael Yanney Chair in International Trade and Finance in the Department of Agricultural Economics and the Yeutter Institute. Professor Matt Schaefer, the Haggart/Work Professor of International Trade Law in the University of Nebraska College of Law, is also integral to the Yeutter Institute. Two more faculty chairs will be hired, one each in the College of Law and the Department of Economics in the College of Business.
Some of Yeutter’s former colleagues now serve on the 13-strong Yeutter Institute Advisory Council, which was announced in February 2019. Located in Nebraska, on both coasts, and places in between, the council members’ collective expertise spans the areas of trade policy and law, commodities markets, global business operations, trade and development, and advanced trade and finance education. The members convened in Lincoln in October—some traveling to Nebraska for the first time—for their first meeting to provide strategic counsel on the institute’s formation and growth.
The Yeutter Institute’s three mission sets—education, research, and outreach—aren’t pursued in isolation. A pilot internship led by Dr. Beghin is a good example of blending learning, applied research, and partnership with a Nebraska company. During the summer of 2019, Beghin worked with agricultural economics major Gerald Van Tassell to develop a customized research product assessing new and expanded export markets for a Nebraska agribusiness firm. Students also learn by being part of the outreach mission through the Yeutter Institute’s “Trade Policy Conversation Starters,” featuring their own research. Yeutter Institute Honors Interns Bret Klabunde, Emily Loftis, and Olivia Coffey kicked off the project in spring 2019 by producing briefing papers on trade policy questions published on the Yeutter Institute website. Their reports covered China's response to soybean tariffs, U.S. legislation on the authority to impose tariffs, and the potential to increase Nebraska exports to Indonesia. Students have also helped update the institute’s “International Trade and Finance Calendar” with trade-related online events, Congressional hearings, and government requests for public comment. This resource, available on the Yeutter Institute website, is for anyone seeking ways to learn more about trade or weigh in on trade policy.
“Our early successes around opportunities for students to grow in their knowledge and confidence in working with these issues are creating a sense of community around the Yeutter Institute,” O’Donnell said. “I am seeing the same students involved with multiple Yeutter Institute events and they are asking, ‘what’s next?’”
Forthcoming in 2020 will be new educational opportunities, a public conference, and a new report examining Nebraskans’ perspectives on the economic impact of U.S. foreign policy—all in line with making the Yeutter Institute a “game changer” for students, researchers, and the public, the way Clayton Yeutter was for international trade.