Courtesy Reuters

The Conflict over Trade Ideologies

WHEN a dispute erupts in the realms of action and of doctrine at the same time it is ominous. An eruption of this type is occurring now over commercial policy. The lava of argument is pouring over the surfaces where national wills clash and shooting into the skies where doctrines spend their angry eternity. I will begin with the dispute over doctrine as the better way of defining the issues uncomplicated by particular local circumstances.

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The American Government is sponsoring at an international conference now meeting in London a suggested Charter for an International Trade Organization. This proposal is the outcome of sustained searching by American and foreign experts for an agreed statement of principles to govern the trade policy of nations. Its terms express a stubborn will to draw countries into a joint program for the reduction of trade restrictions; and they reflect a dogged judgment that the most satisfactory basis for trade is world-wide and unmanaged competition.

It is impossible to condense the detailed prescriptions of the many articles of this Charter satisfactorily. But the basic economic conceptions which shaped them all are easily identified. They are: (1) that governments should reduce all types of restriction imposed on imports and exports; (2) that each should abstain from actions which would cause products produced within their territories to be offered in foreign markets at prices out of correspondence with domestic prices; (3) that each should permit products from every foreign land to compete within its markets on equal terms, and thereby leave the origin of imports to be settled by universal competition; (4) that each should accord all foreign buyers equal opportunity to secure its products on the same terms; (5) that each should abstain from bilateral agreements for the exchange of goods that would or might lessen the opportunity of others to compete for the trade. This is a broad but, I believe, correct interpretation of the conceptions embodied in the many articles of the Charter.

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