Foreign Trade and National Defense

Courtesy Reuters

TODAY it seems an extraordinary thing that when the Trade Agreements Act was first passed in 1934 its preambulatory statement of purposes was innocent of the words "defense" or "security." It is even more extraordinary that the Act lacked any specific reference to these subjects until its ninth renewal in 1954. In a broad sense, of course, security considerations did play a part in the original conception of the Act. Cordell Hull rarely spoke of the program without voicing the view that increased international trade would reduce the risks of war. And much of the public support for trade agreements in the years before World War II derived from a widespread conviction that Mr. Hull was right.

It was not until after World War II, however, that the security theme came to dominate the presentation of the trade agreements program to Congress and the public. As one Administration after another was confronted with the task of obtaining Congressional consent to the program's renewal, the emphasis on its security aspects was gradually increased. A trade program which once was justified to the Congress largely because it might sell more American goods to foreigners began to be based on the contention that it built up defense strength, increased the mutuality of interest of the free nations and reduced the risk that any of them would be trapped by economic dependence on the Soviet bloc.

But what was sauce for the program's proponents was sauce for the protectionists as well. If Administrations could argue for the program on broad security grounds, particular industries could argue against it on narrow ones. Accordingly, contentions multiplied that this or that industry was essential and needed protection. Some of the contentions, of course, were close to absurd. In the name of defense, the dairy lobby succeeded in restricting imports of foreign cheese. The lace manufacturers claimed defense status because they manufactured mosquito netting; the glove manufacturers because they made soldiers' gloves; the cutlery producers because they manufactured machetes; and the

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