No notion was ever ruined by trade, even seemingly the most disadvantageous. -- Benjamin Franklin, 1774 [D]omestic interests will be safeguarded in this process of expanding trade. -- President Harry Truman, 1947
America's first successful trade negotiator, Benjamin Franklin, had a merchant's enthusiasm for commerce. He railed against burdensome government regulations, effused over laissez-faire teachings, and associated the activities of traders with the "common good of mankind."1 Though favoring free trade, he nonetheless argued fervently for "fair and equitable commerce." The Philadelphia philosopher condemned unfair trading practices such as bounties, or subsidies, comparing these to the "knavish" efforts of "pickpockets." In today's parlance, the compassionate Franklin probably would stand prominent among those who advocate fair, free trade. 2
As negotiators, Franklin and his colleagues who drafted the 1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France proved wily and astute. They pragmatically sought and acquired access to the French market for U.S. exporters without yielding the American market to countries, like Britain, that persisted in discriminating against U.S. commerce. Sensitive to the nation's long-term economic interests, Franklin's generation avoided unilateral concessions to free riders and ignored the siren call of untested theories.
If this country's first negotiators could examine the way the Reciprocal