Interests, Institutions, and Ideology in Securing Policy Change: The Republican Conversion to Trade Liberalization after Smoot-Hawley
This paper investigates how changes in both institutional incentives and economic interests are important for securing durable changes in economic policy. We study how bipartisan support developed to sustain the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (RTAA) of 1934, which fundamentally transformed U.S. trade policy. The durability of this change was achieved only when the Republicans, long-time supporters of high tariffs who originally vowed to repeal the RTAA, began to support this Democratic initiative in the 1940s. We find little evidence of an ideological shift among Republicans, but rather an increased sensitivity to export interests for which the institutional structure of the RTAA itself may have been responsible. We conclude that the combination of greater export opportunities and the institutional change that strengthened exporters' lobbying position was required to bring about Republican support for trade liberalization. Copyright 1999 by the University of Chicago.
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