Reluctance to Lead: U.S. Trade Policy in Flux

Vinod K. Aggarwal

Business and Politics, 2009

The U.S. is no longer providing leadership in trade policy. In recent years, we have seen a sharp turn toward a rapid proliferation of bilateral preferential trade agreements, accords that are likely to undermine the World Trade Organization (WTO). By pursuing a strategy of ‘competitive liberalization’ both on a sectoral basis under the Bill Clinton administration, and then a policy of seeking bilateral arrangements under the George W. Bush administration, this article argues that American administrations have undermined the coalition for free trade in the United States. Consequently, protectionist industries including textiles, steel, and agriculture have made further liberalization more difficult and thus the prospects for promoting continued trade liberalization have grown dimmer.

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