World Politics

Research Article

The Institutional Roots of American Trade Policy: Politics, Coalitions, and International Trade

Michael A. Bailey, Judith Goldstein and Barry R. Weingasta1

a1 Stanford University


The 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (RTAA) changed the structure of the making of U.S. trade policy and made possible a dramatic reduction in tariffs. The authors demonstrate that the key institutional innovation in the RTAA was its mandate to lower tariffs through reciprocal agreements with foreign nations. The expansion of exports under the RTAA enhanced political support for increasingly lower U.S. tariffs. Evidence that export interests were positively associated with congressional votes for free trade supports this view.

Michael A. Bailey is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University. Beginning in the fall of 1997 he will be Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. His research interests include development and testing of formal models of representation.

Judith Goldstein is Associate Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. Her current research centers on domestic support for international institutions and, in particular, the World Trade Organization.

Barry R. Weingast is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Stanford University. His current research focuses on the political foundations of democracy and economic development in modern and historical contexts.