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

By Stephen D. Cohen | Go to book overview

4 The Coordination of International Economic Policy

It is time to end the intellectual and bureaucratic separation of economic issues one from another, with parts of each specific issue scattered throughout the government machinery without any sense of overall purpose and general guidance from the top.

--Former Senators Russell Long and Abraham Ribicoff

When an elected government formulates international economic policy, it must review the needs of four constituencies: the domestic economy, international economic relations, domestic politics, and foreign policy. As suggested by the previous chapter, the number of bureaucratic actors participating in this phase of the U.S. policymaking process is very large. A shortage of participants is not a problem.

The primary organizational challenge is resolving conflicting policy proposals in a manner that assures coherence and consistency. Interagency coordination is the essential means to the end of reconciling different definitions of what constitutes "good policy." Formulating international economic policies in the absence of an organized, cooperative effort would invite outbreak of a bureaucratic version of the law of the jungle. Institutional in-fighting amidst an uncertain chain of command would be the norm.

The necessity of coordination in turn creates the need for a multilayered network of interagency consultative mechanisms. How well the various parts of the administration cooperate in pursuing a consensus view of the national interest can and does affect the quality of a government's domestic and international policies. The stakes are high, but the record of senior-level international

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