This step towards free trade was not just about the economy. Trade expansion was at the center of broader U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War. With military alliances, trade agreements have helped link the major free-market democracies, their growing prosperity serving as an effective counterpoint to the centrally planned economies of the Soviet bloc and the People`s Republic of China. The president`s negotiating power was initially limited to bilateral agreements with foreign nations. But after World War II, amid the desire to integrate and rebuild the post-war economy, the United States led the creation of the General Multilateral Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, known as GATT. Under their aegis, the major nations of world trade have concluded a series of “cycles” aimed at further reducing trade barriers. The most prominent of these were the Kennedy Round (1963-67), the Tokyo Round (1973-79) and the Uruguay Round (1986-94). These days, in Den dato, we seem to be linked to opinions on free trade. From the rhetoric of the U.S. presidential campaign to the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with 12 nations, one might get the impression that this debate is just beginning.
But the trade debate is as old as the American Republic, and it is linked to the economic theories of competition and geopolitics. Since the beginning of the 19th century, trade has been a divisive issue in American politics – and the dividing line has fallen quite well between slaves and non-slave states. Northern producers have called for high tariff protection on competing imports; Southern cotton producers have supported an open trade policy to promote their exports. Thus, the TPP is facing strong political headwinds, reinforced by the great frustration of Americans during decades of wage moderation and growing income inequality. In the past, a combination of presidential governance, economic support and foreign policy concerns has been enough to overcome this opposition. It is therefore possible that such a “free trade coalition” will triumph again. But this year`s challenge for the TPP is particularly great and the result is far from certain. But in this election year, political support is fading, especially among Republicans and even Senate Republicans, who are pulling out of a combination of economic and political motivations. The two leading GOP presidential candidates are vocal critics of trade deals, as are Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Traditional Republican free market advocates such as House of Representatives spokesman Paul Ryan are increasingly single for free trade. With the TPP, President Obama is working on a free trade agreement with the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In 2015, he won congressional approval to negotiate the TPP and TTIP, relying primarily on Republican votes.
Polls show that a modest majority of Americans still support free trade agreements. In the early 1980s, the shape of U.S. trade agreements began to change. Until then, successive post-war U.S. governments have followed only global and global trade agreements and have sharply criticized preferential agreements limited to a few countries. The common market and the economic union of Europe were largely exempted from these criticisms because of the broader geopolitical implications – notably to bind the nations that had fought two devastating wars in the first half of the 20th century. Yet American politicians still denounced the UK`s preferred trade deals with former colonies, as well as France`s preferential treatment of certain trading partners.