The Making of United States International Economic Policy: Principles, Problems, and Proposals for Reform

By Stephen D. Cohen | Go to book overview

Introduction and Acknowledgments

International economic policy straddles the two highest priorities of the modern nation-state: economic prosperity and national security. It is simultaneously the external dimension of domestic economic policy and the economic component of foreign policy. This strategic positioning presents a dilemma for international economic policy: its unique characteristics are seldom studied and analyzed as a separate and distinct phenomenon. For too long, it has been viewed either as a low-level subordinate by foreign policy officials or as a foreign cousin by domestic economic policy practitioners. The failure of most U.S. policymakers to respect international economic policy as a distinct entity has been a critical factor in shaping the substance of that policy. Caught between the domestic economic and foreign policy machines, this policy has often been inconsistent, inappropriate, or tepid.

As a consequence, the importance of international economic policy continues to outpace the quality of its content and the efficiency of its conduct. The spiraling dynamic of global interdependence suggests that a second- or third-best U.S. international economic policy already is a costly burden for all major participants in the world economy. The international economic challenges of the twenty-first century are sure to intensify. The United States and its trading partners will be better off if decision-makers and the public at large possess a better understanding of international economic policy. It is also to everyone's advantage if the United States has the best possible organization and procedures to formulate and implement that policy. As used in this book, the policymaking process encompasses a number of different activities: planning, data collection and assessment, identification of problems, articulation of options, making specific decisions, implementation of those decisions, and evaluation of existing policies and programs. 1

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