I want students to think about why they think the way they do and to engage in debate with others so they can see where their priorities are.

Christopher Magee

One of the central questions that emerges when countries consider entering into a regional trade agreement is how it will impact their respective economies. Economists like Professor Chris Magee help to shape those decisions by estimating and analyzing the effects those deals have on trade flows.

The son of an international trade economist, Magee has studied the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for more than 20 years, beginning with a graduate school project that examined how campaign contributions to elected government officials affected their vote on the treaty. Goods imported tariff-free from a regional partner may lower retail prices, which is good for the consumer, but there are other repercussions to be considered when those goods replace items that were previously procured through trade with another country.

“We really try to separate out how much of the trade agreements lead to trade diversion,” says Magee. “That gives us a sense of whether they are welfare-enhancing or not.”

Magee has applied the same tenets of empirical research to other subjects ranging from how political and economic factors affected the Arab Spring revolts to how the race of NBA head coaches impacts the playing time of players of the same race.

Having the flexibility and curiosity to veer outside of his lane when a topic interests him is consistent with Magee’s approach to the classroom, where he encourages students to view complex issues through multiple lenses and engage with each other in thoughtful discussion.

“I try to emphasize to students that for most of these questions, there is no right answer,” Magee says. “There are different ways of viewing the world, and depending on your priorities, you may come up with different answers.

“I want students to think about why they think the way they do and to engage in debate with others so they can see where their priorities are,” he adds. “We’re not trying to change anyone’s opinion, but to get them to be able to defend their beliefs and understand why others may hold different beliefs — and why both of those beliefs are reasonable.”

Posted December 2018