Taking Trade to the Streets
The Lost History of Public Efforts to Shape Globalization
Publication Year: 2001
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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One of the ironies surrounding most contemporary policy debates is the reportage seems to concentrate more on personalities and tactics than on the substance of the issue. Consequently, the effects of any policy shifts increasingly seem to come as a surprise to the general public, and, when noticed, are too often viewed as isolated events rather than as part of larger structural change.
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For two-thirds of a century now, the United States has pursued a policy of reducing barriers to international trade. In the FDR years, we did so by negotiating bilateral deals with our principal trading partners. With the signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in the late 1940s, the means shifted to multilateral negotiations—first primarily with Europeans, but increasingly with nations around the globe.
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At first glance, the December 16, 1773, meeting in Old South Church in Boston and the November 26, 1999, teach-in in Seattle’s Benaroya Symphony Hall have little in common. More than five thousand colonists, about a third of Boston’s population, crowded into Old South Church. About half that number crowded into the twenty-five-hundred-seat Symphony Hall. The participants at both meetings focused on trade.
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Chapter 1: How Trade Agreement Critics Redefined the Terms of Trade
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On November 30, 1999, some five thousand delegates from more than 135 nations traveled to Seattle, Washington. They met to discuss whether or not to launch a new round of trade talks under the aegis of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Despite the many pleasures of Seattle, most of the delegates did not enjoy their stay. The official talks were eclipsed by a week of street protests and sporadic violence, as vandals smashed the storefront windows of Nike, Starbucks, and McDonald’s.1
Chapter 2: Same Agruments, Different Context: A Brief History of Protectionism from 1789 to the 1960s
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When Benjamin Franklin wrote that “in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes,” he was referring to tariffs.1 Tariffs— duties applied at the border—were America’s main tool for regulating trade. However, when Americans talked about tariffs, they weren’t only talking about a tool to restrict trade. They were talking about a device that could nurture the new nation’s economic growth as well as finance the U.S. government. Moreover, when Americans talked tariffs, they also were discussing the implications of government intervention in the economy.
Chapter 3: How the GATT Came to Intersect with the Regulatory Social Compact
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In 1965, attorney Ralph Nader loaded a slingshot and lobbed at General Motors, one of the world’s largest corporations. In a grim, fact-laden book, Unsafe at Any Speed, Nader criticized the design, production, and marketing of an unsafe car, the Corvair.1 With this volley, Nader helped modernize America’s approach to social regulation, calling for government regulation of business as well as public monitoring of such regulation. Nader became a liberal icon, devoting “his life to defending the American public against corporate negligence and government indifference.”2
Chapter 4: Back to "America First" : Deregulation, Economic Nationalism, and New Rationales for Protection
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From 1945 to 1979, most Americans simply did not care about trade policy. It was not the stuff of headlines, front page news, or sixty-second sound bites. Trade policy was made in Washington and in Geneva by a relatively small circle of government officials, trade unionists, business leaders, and academics. Critics of trade policy were not visible to most Americans during these glory days of the U.S. economy. Although many Americans disagreed with certain aspects of U.S. trade policy, they expressed their disagreement in traditional venues—the halls of Congress or executive branch buildings. Critics of U.S. trade policy rarely took to the streets.
Chapter 5: It Came from Canada : What Americans Learned About Trade and the Social Compact During the FTA and NAFTA Debates
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Geography, for most countries and their citizens, is destiny. For Canadians, it is also a source of great ambivalence. On the one hand, they live next to the United States. The largest economy in the world is a great market for Canadian exports. On the other hand, Canadians live next to the United States. The largest economy in the world exports acid rain and occasionally erects barriers to Canadian products.
Chapter 6: Gleaning the GATT
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As he slogged through the Reagan administration’s GATT proposals in the summer of 1987, Mark Ritchie was worried.1 Ritchie was an agricultural policy analyst for the state of Minnesota. His job was to examine how global and domestic public policies might affect Minnesota’s farmers.2
Chapter 7: Thinking Locally, Acting Globally
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On a sunny June afternoon in 1996, some seventy economists, political scientists, reporters, and business and government officials from around the world gathered in a fancy Washington, D.C., hotel. They met to celebrate the work of the new international organization that governs trade, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and to examine trade barriers that might be reduced in future international negotiations among WTO member nations.
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 3 tables
Publication Year: 2001