International Trade: The Changing Role of the United States

International Trade: The Changing Role of the United States

International Trade: The Changing Role of the United States

International Trade: The Changing Role of the United States

Excerpt

For most of this century, the United States has undoubtedly been the world's dominant political, military, cultural, and economic force. After World War II, it assumed a new, more active role; it helped rebuild war-shattered countries, filled the gaps of global agricultural and industrial deficiencies, provided its market as a tool to spur development, and established and buttressed the system of international trade.

Today, however, a significant erosion in that hegemonic status has emerged; perhaps the most noticeable and ominous signs of America's changing role are economic indicators. The headlines report that the United States has changed from a creditor nation to a debtor, from a net exporter to an importer, and from a stockpiler of steady trade surpluses to an accumulator of massive deficits. More important, though, behind these labels lie a real and damaging decline in the standard of living of many Americans and the threat of diminished affluence for all the rest.

The United States trade crisis is a key factor in America's worsening economic condition. From the 1940s through the 1970s, the United States enjoyed a steady increase both in the volume of its international trade and in its trade surplus. In the past decade, however, trade increased at a far faster rate, and deficits began to appear in America's balance of payments. In 1989 the trade deficit exceeded $100 billion, an unimaginable figure a decade before. Worse yet, much of that total was in the area of merchandise trade, the sector of the economy with the most impact on employment and subsidiary industries. Clearly, it is time to examine the nature of United States international trade and to consider strategies to improve the conditions of our trade policy and practices.

The Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science has long been concerned with international trade. The topic has been a major interest in numerous volumes and the focal issue in many others, beginning with American Foreign Trade Relations in 1921. These volumes indicate a perspective that seems to have been the American norm in this century: that economic policy should be used as a tool for political goals. The present volume, on the other hand, is evidence of an emerging perspective that holds that United States economic well-being should be a conscious, primary goal of political policy making.

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