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BIPR | Single Market Power: How Europe Surpassed America
Single Market Power: How Europe Surpassed America

February 5, 2024 - 18:30

Matthias Matthijs, Johns Hopkins University SAIS

Event Recap

Professor Matthias Matthijs joined Professor Tito Cordella and the Bologna Institute for Policy Research to discuss his research into the European Union's strict "single market" policies enforcing economic openness, especially when compared to the relatively lax controls over interstate regulations found in the United States.

Professor Matthijs holds the Dean Acheson Chair at SAIS in Washington, DC and is an alumnus, having studied at the SAIS Europe Bologna Center in 2001-02 before finishing his M.A. in Washington in 2003. He completed his Ph.D. in International Relations at Johns Hopkins University in 2008. He is also a Senior Fellow for Europe at the Council on Foreign Relations and served as the Chair of the European Union Studies Association between 2019 and 2021.

At the core of his research, which Professor Matthijs has conducted alongside University of Oregon Professor Craig Parsons, is the question of why the EU claims and actively exercises more authority to require openness than is present in any federal state, including the United States, Australia, or Canada.

Why is it, for example, that the EU has either uniform standards or centrally required mutual recognition for intra-EU trade in goods while the United States mostly relies on central floors or "host state" control? How has it become that a licensed hairdresser moving between Pennsylvania and Ohio could need hundreds of hours' worth of additional training while EU rules ensure a German barber could move from Berlin to Bologna and open a business without any issue? Traditional theories of European integration applied to American political development would seem to indicate the U.S. should have stronger rules than the EU to protect the openness of its internal market. So why is the reality exactly the opposite?

One popular explanation is need: the United States simply does not need the type of strict rules protecting openness that the EU does. Trade volume between U.S. states is already four to five times higher than between EU members, and the movement of people is 10 to 15 times higher between U.S. states. The fifty states also benefit from a common language, greater cultural homogeneity, and a large central government, while EU members do not.

According to the research of Professors Matthijs and Parsons, however, need is not enough to explain why EU members are willing to delegate a degree of authority that U.S. states are not. The answer instead lies in ideas and political coalitions, specifically in how the concept of neoliberalism has evolved in the U.S. and in the EU. In the U.S., Reagan-era neoliberals built a socially conservative coalition focused on maintaining "states' rights" and weakening central authority, whereas European neoliberals agreed to stronger European institutions to impose free-market rules.

What are the policy takeaways from this research for the U.S. and the EU? For Professor Matthijs, much of the discourse around the "incompleteness" of Europe's single market is mistaken, as the single-market project is not likely to ever deliver the trade flows that exist between U.S. states. For the U.S., meanwhile, an EU-style "single-market project" is actually worth considering, given the enormous potential benefits of ensuring an even more open economy between individual states, especially in the services industry.



Single Market Power: How Europe Surpassed America

hosted by Professor Tito Cordella

Matthias Matthijs
Johns Hopkins University SAIS

Matthias Matthijs holds the Dean Acheson Chair at SAIS and is associate professor of international political economy. His research focuses on the politics of economic crises, the role of economic ideas in economic policymaking, and the politics of regional integration. At SAIS, he teaches courses in international relations and comparative politics, and was twice awarded the Max M. Fisher Prize for Excellence in Teaching, in 2011 and 2015. He is also a Senior Fellow for Europe at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and served as the Chair of the European Union Studies Association (EUSA) from 2019 to 2021. Matthijs is the editor (with Mark Blyth) of The Future of the Euro, published by Oxford University Press in 2015, and author of Ideas and Economic Crises in Britain from Attlee to Blair (1945-2005), published by Routledge in 2011. The latter is based on his doctoral dissertation, which received the Samuel H. Beer Prize for Best Dissertation in British Politics by a North American scholar, awarded by the British Politics Group of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in 2010.

Matthijs has authored numerous peer reviewed articles that have been published in academic journals including Perspectives on Politics, Politics & Society, Review of International Political Economy, the Journal of Common Market Studies, Governance, Government and Opposition, the Journal of European Public Policy, the Journal of European Integration, Comparative European Politics, and The International Spectator. He has also written multiple articles and essays for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Journal of Democracy, Survival, and Current History.

Among various other research and writing projects, he is currently working on a book-length manuscript that delves into the collapse of national elite consensus around European integration.

He previously taught at American University's School of International Service in Washington, DC from 2008 to 2012, and was a visiting assistant professor of international political economy at SAIS Europe in Bologna, Italy during the spring semester of 2010 and the academic year 2016-17. He has also served as a consultant for the World Bank's Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS) from 2005 to 2007 and for the Economist Intelligence Unit from 2009 to 2011.

Dr. Matthijs received his BSc in applied economics from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, and his MA and PhD in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.
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