The foremost weapons in the arsenal of U.S. remedies against objectionable foreign trade practices are the countervailing duty law, the antidumping law, and the (in)famous Section 301, which permits and in some cases requires the United States unilaterally to impose restrictions on imports from countries whose trade practices the United States finds discriminatory, unjustifiable, or unreasonable. Formerly a Senate staffer and now with the Economic Strategy Institute, Mastel mounts a spirited defense of these weapons, arguing that they have been necessary for preserving free trade and successful in persuading other countries to reduce barriers to imports and illegal promotion of exports.
This is not a balanced account. Many foreigners note with some bitterness that under Section 301 the U.S. government is prosecutor, judge, and jury all in one; that antidumping actions in practice have strayed far from the limited theoretical rationale for them; and that under the American legal system even the threat of a case can limit imports, a fact that many U.S. firms (or their legal advisors) have noted. All that adds up to something far from the fair trade that Americans supposedly espouse. But Mastel's book is well informed and well argued, with much useful material on the legislative background and on particular cases for those interested in these admittedly technical but important aspects of U.S. trade policy.