At the end of World War II, the United States, convinced that a liberal trading order was needed not only to foster economic reconstruction and growth but to ease the management of international political conflict, joined other countries in a concerted effort to reform world trade. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) put into place a system of rules based on the idea of nondiscrimination through the most-favored-nation principle. Several rounds of multilateral negotiations brought significant reductions in tariff barriers. Trade grew, and the world economy prospered.
From the beginning, there were major exceptions, both conceptual and operational, in this emerging system. The principle of nondiscrimination, for example, was suspended to permit Europe to form preferential trading areas. Agricultural trade was excluded under the rules, largely at the insistence of the United States. GATT negotiations focused on tariffs and were quite successful in bringing them down, but could not prevent the rise of a "new protectionism" based on quantitative trade restraints and nontariff barriers.
Protectionist practices have risen steadily in recent years, subjecting much of world trade to some form of "management." In the United States, as elsewhere, critics deride not only the practice but the idea of free trade, calling in increasingly strident terms for managed trade.
Jan Tumlir spent many years in the thick of the fray as GATT's director of research. In this monograph he brings his considerable knowledge and experience to a critical examination of contemporary international trade, dealing not only with economic considerations but with the political and constitutional ramifications of trade policy. He thoughtfully evaluates a major problem in public policy and offers a suggestion for its resolution.
Protectionism: Trade Policy in Democratic Societies is one of many studies sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute's multiyear project on international trade, technology policy, economic adjustment, and human capital development. Entitled Competing in a Changing World Economy, the project is designed to examine basic