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The Strategic Logic of Trade

New Rules of the Road for the Global Market


Courtesy Reuters

For much of the twentieth century, leaders and policymakers around the world viewed the strategic importance of trade, and of international economic policy more generally, largely through the lens of military strength. They believed that the role of a strong economy was to act as an enabler, supporting a strong military, which they saw as the best way to project power and influence. But in recent decades, leaders have come to see the economic clout that trade produces as more than merely a purse for military prowess: they now understand prosperity to be a principal means by which countries measure and exercise power.

The strategic importance of trade is not new, but it has grown in recent years and strongly reinforces the economic case for expanding trade. Over 40 years ago, the economist Thomas Schelling observed, “Broadly defined to include investment, shipping, tourism, and the management of enterprises, trade is what

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