United States Economic Policy and International Relations

By Raymond F. Mikesell | Go to book overview

Introduction

THE FOREIGN economic policy of a nation is largely determined by two independent and sometimes contradictory forces, namely, its domestic economic interests and its international political objectives, including that of national defense. We may perhaps legitimately add a third force, humanitarianism or universal idealism, but it is very difficult to distinguish this factor from the other two in the formation of policy. Foreign economic policy is concerned with a large number of official actions and attitudes with respect to the manifold economic relations between nations, including those economic actions which are specifically undertaken in support of some political objective, e.g., a foreign loan or grant to achieve some purely political purpose. Foreign economic policy rarely forms a consistent whole even in the most authoritarian states, since complete coordination of all its aspects in terms of the complexity of its motivating forces would be extremely difficult to achieve. Laws and regulations with respect to commercial dealings with other countries frequently cannot be revised in time to meet changing economic interests and political objectives. This is particularly true in the United States, where the executive and legislative branches of the government are separated. For example, prohibitive tariffs, burdensome customs procedures, and the "Buy America" act still remain on the statute books at a time when it is generally recognized that increased imports would contribute to the domestic economic interest of the United States. The Johnson Act prohibiting private loans to European governments which had defaulted on their war debts was still on the statute books long after this country was making large governmental grants and loans to the defaulting nations. To an even greater degree do we find clear conflicts between actions taken in the interest of some domestic economic objective and those taken in the interest of foreign political objectives. We shall be concerned with a number of such contradictions in the course of this study.

Foreign economic policy in the United States may be determined in a large number of ways: acts and resolutions of Congress, Presidential orders and executive agreements, statements and actions of the representatives of governmental agencies operating in the foreign economic

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