U.S. Politics and the Global Economy: Corporate Power, Conservative Shift

By Ronald W. Cox; Daniel Skidmore-Hess | Go to book overview
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favored retaining trade policy implementation within the executive office of the president.

ECAT was described by a key White House staffer as a “well-organized, highly effective group [that] represents some 200 of the largest U.S. multinational corporations. With high stakes in exports and imports, ECAT probably did more to assure Congressional passage of the Trade Act [of 1979] than any other private organization.” 72 ECAT in particular opposed the creation of a line agency for trade that would lose its status as a “neutral” policy broker. Further, ECAT believed that “trying to give Commerce the trade policy lead would be like pushing back the clock twenty years.” 73 Its idea of reform was to enhance the executive's discretionary power to lower tariffs and to negotiate trade concessions without congressional amendment, an advantage first given to the president in the 1974 Trade Act.

Internationalist interests that had been frustrated by capital controls a decade earlier now were able to effect changes in state structure and function designed to promote a more aggressive export orientation in U.S. foreign economic policy. The Carter plan was a shift toward export promotion, though without some of the nationalist overtones favored by the NAM and the IPAC. As governmental restructuring, it could be said to reflect the new world trade order that was developing in place of the Bretton Woods system. Trade reorganization was consistent with the goals of multilateral trade and investment 74 liberalization; indeed, it now projected the U.S. government on the world economic stage as an advocate of the export of goods and capital.

A new coalescence of business interests on trade issues and reformed institutions signaled a shift toward a more overt capture of the state by multinationalist business interests. This coalescence would in the 1980s and 1990s form the core of an increasingly hegemonic conservative multinationalist bloc. The rising conservative coalition would emphasize decreased costs of capital through lower taxes, less government regulation, reinvigorated subsidy of the military-industrial complex, government support of U.S. exporters, and the rollback of some of the more politically vulnerable portions of the welfare state.

Richard E. Jansen, “Major Easing of Foreign-Investment Curbs Readied, but Key Domestic Decisions Remain, Wall Street Journal, March 17, 1969, p. 32.
Economic Research Division, “Easing of Capital Controls, internal corporate bulletin, The Chase Manhattan Bank, April 14, 1969, Arthur Burns Papers, Box 3, White House Central Files (WHCF), Staff Member and Office Files (SMOF), National Archives.


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