Trade Politics and Labor Issues, 1953-95
I. M. Destler
IN THE EARLY decades of U.S. trade liberalization, organized labor was a consistent and reliable member of the free-trade coalition that found a comfortable home in the Democratic Party. Unions supported Cordell Hull and the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934; the AFL-CIO backed John R. Kennedy and his Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
Nor was this stance limited to the United States. In a comprehensive cross-national comparison of foreign economic policies during the inter- war period, Beth Simmons has shown that governments of the Left regularly backed policies of low tariffs (as well as depreciating exchange rates). This seems to have been related to their identification with consumer interests and their opposition to concentrated business power. In any case, it was governments of the Right that inclined toward protectionism,
I thank Mark Anderson, Steve Charnovitz, Susan Collins, Ellen Frost, Julius Katz, Sharyn O'Halloran, and J. David Richardson for their helpful critical comments, and William R. Cline for access to preliminary drafts of his Institute for International Economics book, Trade and Income Distribution ( 1997).