U.S. Trade Polio: History, Theory, and the WTO

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U.S. Trade Polio: History, Theory, and the WTO, 2d ed., by William A. Lovett, Alfred E. Eckes, Jr., and Richard L. Brinkman. Armonk, N.Y., and London: M. E. Sharpe. 2004. Paper, ISBN 0765613085, $25.95. 236 pages, bibliography, and index.

This book consists of a series of five essays by three authors each of whom has a unique set of concerns regarding United States international economic policy. The first edition of this book was not available to this reviewer so that he cannot offer an appraisal of the differences between the two editions. The lead author is Professor Lovett, who is a lawyer with advanced degrees in economics. He currently is Joseph Merrick Jones Professor of Law and Economics at Tulane University Law School, and he is the author of an extensive list of publications on the subject of international trade and possessed of extensive experience in many parts of the world.

The second author, Professor Eckes, holds an M.A. degree in Law and Diplomacy and a Ph.D. in history. He is currently Ohio Eminent Research Professor in Contemporary History at Ohio University. Professor Eckes has written extensively on the subject of international trade policy and also has benefited from extensive experiences in the execution of international trade policy.

Professor Brinkman has degrees in Biology, Economics, and Law and Diplomacy and currently teaches at Portland State University. His publications also include a variety of articles and books on topics including trade policy.

The first and fifth of these articles were written by William Lovett, the second by Alfred Eckes, and the third and fourth by Richard Brinkman. The disparate vantage points of these three authors make it uncomfortably difficult to find a unified direction for the book as a whole. Each author seems to be concentrating on failures of United States international economic policy which began in the preconstitutional period in U.S. history and which continue to plague U.S. policy to the present day. Current policy and current treaty arrangements come in for a considerable amount of negative evaluation. Many of these negative evaluations seem to be predicated on the assumption that United States trade policy has, for most of its history, suffered from a "naive faith in laissez-faire." Not all of us will agree with that assessment what with tying contracts, tax advantages, aggressive tariff negotiations, and many other "interferences" with free markets across national boundaries by the United States government as well as by private interests.

This passage from the preface to the book does much to set the tone of the arguments raised in the essays that follow (p. xi): "Excessive trade imbalances, heavy debt burdens, and speculative capital flows are problems for many countries, and they erode the good order and prosperity of the world economy, too. Thus, a healthier global economy requires reasonable efforts by individual nations to live within their means, avoid excessive budget and external deficits, and correct serious imbalance problems." This erosion has occurred, they say, for the U.S. trade as well as for the trade of other countries and result apparently from counterproductive macroeconomic policies as well as specific trade policies. From this point, the authors proceed to express considerable distaste for international institutions which were designed to manage the pattern of international trade. The ultimate responsibility for the management of a country's trade in a beneficial way still depends on policies designed by the country, itself, given the arguments in this book. …