American Trade Politics

Free trade is one of the few issues on which just about all economists agree: they are for it. In part because of this powerful consensus, all American Presidents in modern times have committed themselves to free trade (and most have honored the commitment quite seriously). However, protectionism remains a constant threat to this state of affairs, according to I. M. Destler in American Trade Politics, and only constant vigilance will prevent protectionism from returning to American politics. Recent trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) offer hope that protectionism will not gain a foothold, and Destler is pleased with the progress that the Clinton administration made, observing that protectionism could have returned under a Democratic president. Nonetheless, Destler’s book serves as a warning to those who would welcome or at least encourage a return to greater protectionism of American commerce in the international economy. A professor and acting dean during 1994-1995 at the Institute for International Economics in Washington, Destler is himself a staunch believer in free trade, and his book’s main concern is to elaborate some political strategies to forestall protectionism. This research examines Destler’s book and the decisions which have been made recently concerning American trade.

It is impossible to say whether corporate policy, government intervention or the emergence of regional economic groupings has the greatest effect on trade patterns. Each of these components has a large effect on trade patterns, and each strongly influences the others. In addition, other factors, such as the tremendous advances in technology and transportation, must also be taken into account.

Even considering only the three main factors, there is such an interrelationship among them that it is impossible to separate them from one another. A company’s…

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