The Institutional Roots of American Trade Policy: Politics, Coalitions, and International Trade

The 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (RTAA) changed the structure of the making of U.S. trade policy and made possible a dramatic reduction in tariffs. The authors demonstrate that the key institutional innovation in the RTAA was its mandate to lower tariffs through reciprocal agreements with foreign nations. The expansion of exports under the RTAA enhanced political support for increasingly lower U.S. tariffs. Evidence that export interests were positively associated with congressional votes for free trade supports this view.