Ford students tackle trade policy in the Integrated Policy Exercise (IPE)

2019 is off to a busy start at the Ford School! We kicked off the Winter semester with the annual Integrated Policy Exercise (IPE). The IPE requirement is a three-day simulation requiring Ford students to collaborate, make decisions, and offer solutions to address a real world policy issue. This year’s policy topic was the ratification of the USMCA trade agreement, otherwise known as the “new NAFTA”.

On October 1, 2018, President Trump and heads of state from Mexico and Canada signed the USMCA agreement, which legislative bodies in each country must ratify a final version of the deal. IPE gave Ford students an opportunity to simulate the ratification process for the U.S, which Congress expected to debate implementing legislation for the final agreement early this year.

Back in December, IPE organizers brought Ford students together for a day long briefing  to receive their assigned roles and meet with experts on the topic. About 160 students were assigned roles as elected officials across the three countries, journalists, organized labor, industry associations, and environmental groups. The briefing also included a panel of experts including Bob King, former president of United Auto Workers (UAW), and former U.S Representative Sander Levin (MI-9th).

To aid in the simulation, Ford students utilized ViewPoint, which is a software developed at UM in collaboration with Ford professor, Elizabeth Gerber. The site’s organizational and communication tools enable IPE participants to form coalitions, lobby elected officials, schedule votes, and publicize policy positions. One popular feature among the students and faculty is the pseudo-twitter page, which was heavily utilized by IPE’s President Trump.

After two eventful days of congressional hearings, press conferences, and negotiations among the three principle countries. The simulation ended with U.S Congress voting to pass implementing legislation for the USMCA after pushing through an additional bill increasing job training and negotiating better enforcement for labor protections outlined in USMCA.

2nd year Masters student and IPE organizer, Jack Cumming, recapped the weekend, “Overall, I was very impressed by everyone who participated in this year’s integrated policy exercise. People took their roles very seriously which made the simulation even more dynamic than I had expected. With so many stakeholders and decision makers in one room, the participants demonstrated that legislative compromise at the federal level can be very complicated, especially on an issue like trade that impacts so many communities.”