American Trade Policy: 1923-1995

By Edward S. Kaplan | Go to book overview

8
A Return to Unilateralism

With the passage of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act in 1988 (OTCA) and its Super 301 section, the United States appeared to be turning away from multilateralism and, once again, toward unilateralism. In the late 1980s America had become disenchanted with GATT, even though it still belonged and participated in its proceedings. The United States has claimed that the WTO, the successor to GATT, has failed to address the fundamental differences that divide countries. For example, the WTO has not defused the trade disputes between Japan and the United States that threaten its very existence. The WTO has been unable to convince Japan to open its markets, not only with the United States but with other countries, and to reduce its enormous trade surpluses. Perhaps it was the failure of the Brussels ministerial meeting to end the Uruguay Round in December 1990 that convinced the United States that it could no longer count on the multilateral system to solve its trade problems. During that meeting the United States the European Union (EU), and Japan refused to cooperate with one another, and it took another three years to complete the trading round. 1

In the 1990s the United States has presented two contrasting faces of trade policy. It professes solid support for the WTO, as seen in the multilateral initiatives undertaken. On the other hand, it unilaterally attacks countries like Japan, China, India, and Brazil that establish barriers against U.S. goods. The Congress, the bastion of revived protectionism, has provided the president with the battering ram to force closed markets open. Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 allows the president to ask the U.S. trade representative (USTR) to identify the countries that maintain the most flagrant trade barriers against the United States and to eliminate those barriers. The president's authority lasts for two years. If the United States asks the offending country to eliminate its trade barrier, and it refuses to do so, the president has the authority to retaliate by blocking an equivalent amount of the offending country's exports to the United States. The president has twelve to eighteen months to negotiate with the offending country before retaliation takes effect. In 1988 the OTCA amended Section 301, calling it Super 301, to allow sanctions to be imposed quickly. Under Section 301 some cases have carried on

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American Trade Policy: 1923-1995
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Economics and Economic History ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Background to the Hawley-Smoot Tariff 1
  • Notes 18
  • 2 - The Hawley-Smoot Tariff 38
  • 3 - The Building of a Liberal Trade Policy 43
  • Notes 60
  • 4 - The Trade Expansion Act and the Kennedy Round 65
  • Notes 86
  • 5 - The Trade Reform Act and the Tokyo Round 89
  • Notes 108
  • 6 - Fair Trade and the Uruguay Round 113
  • Notes 132
  • 7 - The North American Free Trade Agreement 137
  • Notes 156
  • 8 - A Return to Unilateralism 159
  • Notes 167
  • Bibliography 169
  • Index 173
  • About the Author 177
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