World Politics

Research Article

State Power and the Structure of International Trade

Stephen D. Krasnera1

a1 University of California

Abstract

The structure of international trade, identified by the degree of openness for the movement of goods, can best be explained by a state-power theory of international political economy. This theory begins with the assumption that the nature of international economic movements is determined by states acting to maximize national goals. Four goals—aggregate national income, political power, social stability, and economic growth—can be systematically related to the degree of openness in the international trading system for states of different relative sizes and levels of development. This analysis leads to the conclusion that openness is most likely to exist when there is a hegemonic distribution of potential economic power. Time-series data on tariff levels, trade proportions, regional concentration, per capita income, national income, share of world trade, and share of world investment are then presented. The first three are used to describe the degree of openness in the trading system; the last four, the distribution of state power. The data suggest that the state-power theory should be amended to take into consideration domestic political constraints on state action.

Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently working on a study of raw materials policy.