Reconciling Free Trade, Fair Trade, and Interdependence: The Rhetoric of Presidential Economic Leadership

Reconciling Free Trade, Fair Trade, and Interdependence: The Rhetoric of Presidential Economic Leadership

Reconciling Free Trade, Fair Trade, and Interdependence: The Rhetoric of Presidential Economic Leadership

Reconciling Free Trade, Fair Trade, and Interdependence: The Rhetoric of Presidential Economic Leadership

Synopsis

Conti examines presidential rhetoric on trade, providing a detailed analysis of presidential trade arguments and strategies throughout American history, with a concentration on the rhetoric of contemporary presidents from Reagan to Clinton.

Excerpt

There are six distinct periods in the development of the rhetoric of trade policy: first, establishing the constitutional foundations of trade; second, sectional divisions prior to the Civil War; third, populism in the 1880s, as embodied by a fight against tariffs; fourth, a revolution in trade policy during the 1930s; fifth, economic dominance following World War II; and sixth, the devaluation of the dollar and rising protectionist pressures in the 1970s and the 1980s. in each period, certain presidential trade arguments dominated. in some points, the fundamental principles of trade policy and the use of tariffs as an instrument of this policy were at issue. However, the executive branch remained unwavering in its public commitment to the principle of free trade. Even ardently protectionist presidents enveloped their trade-restricting actions in the cloak of reciprocity, defining such measures as necessitated by other nations' transgressions, and thereby rhetorically preserving their adherence to the principle of free trade. For Democrat and Republican presidents alike, adherence to free trade was essential in the land of Adam Smith and the free market. While each president had to balance government action with his own party's philosophy and the unique historical circumstances of the time, all rooted their trade rhetoric in the governing principles established in the U.S. Constitution.

The constitutional foundations of trade

The Constitution gave a clear prerogative to Congress for regulating trade with foreign nations:

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