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From Smoot-Hawley to Reciprocal Trade Agreements: Changing the Course of U.S. Trade Policy in the 1930s

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  • Douglas A. Irwin

Abstract

Four years after passing the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariff in 1930, Congress enacted the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (RTAA), which gave the president the authority to undertake tariff-reduction agreements (without Congressional approval) with foreign countries. The resulting trade agreements reduced U.S. tariffs and culminated in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947. Was the Great Depression responsible for bringing about this fundamental shift in U.S. trade policy? This paper analyzes the changes in U.S. trade policy during this period and argues that (i) the Depression as an international phenomenon motivated the unprecedented Congressional delegation of tariff-making powers, (ii) economic changes more the result of World War II than the Depression blunted Republican opposition to the RTAA and ensured its post-war survival.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5895.

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Date of creation: Jan 1997
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Publication status: published as Bordo, Michael D., Claudia Goldin, and Eugene N. White (eds.) The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5895

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  1. Haggard, Stephan, 1988. "The institutional foundations of hegemony: explaining the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(01), pages 91-119, December.
  2. Crucini, M.J. & Kahn, J., 1994. "Tarrifs and Aggregate Economic Activity: Lessons from the Great Depression," RCER Working Papers 383, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
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Cited by:
  1. Conconi, Paola & Facchini, Giovanni & Zanardi, Maurizio, 2008. "Fast Track Authority and International Trade Negotiations," CEPR Discussion Papers 6790, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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