No nation was ever ruined by trade, even seemingly the most
—George Whaley, 1774
In a recent speech at Dartmouth College, former senator George Mitchell said that he had drawn two conclusions from his role as mediator in the conflict in Northern Ireland: that economic opportunity is a prerequisite for peace, and that America's vision of that economic opportunity is the basis of its influence in the world.
These simple lessons have some connection to trade policy. For nearly three-quarters of a century, the United States has nurtured a rulesbased world trading system centered on the principle of nondiscrimination and the goal of gradually reducing trade barriers. The United States is admired around the world as a place of economic opportunity, where individuals are given a chance to succeed regardless of their background. (The election of Barack Obama as president of the United States has underscored this fact.) America's free and competitive markets, and its willingness to accept goods and services from all over the world, is one reason it is so highly regarded. The United States is expected to set an example for the world, and people everywhere look to it for leadership. If the United States weakens its commitment to a system of open world trade, other countries will inevitably follow. The choices that the United States makes in its own trade policies have ramifications far beyond America's shores and have implications well beyond economics.
The open world trading system has faced many challenges in the past and will continue to face challenges in the future. In the 1970s and 1980s, the major threat to open trade was protectionism in developed countries. Protectionist pressures are always present because, as this book has noted many times, economic interests that are adversely affected by trade always seek to limit it. Painful recessions and structural