Trading Blows: Party Competition and U.S. Trade Policy in a Globalizing Era

Trading Blows: Party Competition and U.S. Trade Policy in a Globalizing Era

Trading Blows: Party Competition and U.S. Trade Policy in a Globalizing Era

Trading Blows: Party Competition and U.S. Trade Policy in a Globalizing Era


For the past two decades, trade policy has been high on the American political agenda, thanks to the growing integration of the United States into the global economy and the wealth of debate this development has sparked. Although scholars have explored many aspects of U.S. trade policy, there has been little study of the role played by party politics. With "Trading Blows, James Shoch fills that gap.

Shoch offers detailed case studies of almost all of the major trade issues of the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton eras, including administrative and legislative efforts to curb auto, steel, and other imports and to open up markets in Japan and elsewhere, as well as free-trade initiatives such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) treaty that concluded the Uruguay Round of international trade talks, the extension of presidential fast-track trade negotiating authority, and the approval of permanent normal trade relations with China. In sodoing, he explains the complex patterns of party competition over U.S. trade policy since 1980 and demonstrates the significant impact that party politics has had on the nation's recent trade policy decisions.


This book, the first of its kind on the recent partisan politics of U. S. trade policy, has been a long time in the making. It has its origins in my years as an activist in the early and mid-1980s, when many of us on the Left debated how to advance our cause through the vehicle of the Democratic Party. These were years of soaring trade deficits and "deindustrialization"; thus one important area of concern to us was the Democrats' stance on trade and industrial policy.

The 1980s were hard on the Left, so in 1987 I decided to go to graduate school in the hope that if I could not change the world, I might at least better understand it. But I took my obsession with American party politics with me. As I searched for a dissertation topic, it appeared clear to me that party competition was to a significant degree driving U. S. trade policy, which at that time was focused on combating the mounting Japanese challenge, yet few scholars had noticed this. So I wrote a thesis on the party politics of American "economic nationalism" in the 1980s. Of course, the subsequent rise of concern over economic "globalization" and the great free-trade battles of the 1990s forced me to include analysis of these issues as I worked to turn my thesis into a book. Writing on this topic was thus like trying to hit a fast-moving target, and this slowed production of the manuscript.

The book was also delayed as I struggled both to grasp the fields of American politics and international political economy and to find my own scholarly voice through an integration of the heterodox political-economic views of my activist days with the more conventional political science that I absorbed in graduate school. Whether I have succeeded in producing the synthesis that I was searching for is up to the reader to decide.

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, the writing of this book has been a somewhat more solitary process than I had expected. Perhaps this is in part because the project falls so squarely between two fields. Still, I have received . . .

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