America and Trade Liberalization: The Limits of Institutional Reform International Organization
Judith Goldstein, Robert Gulotty  |  April 8, 2014

Among scholars, delegation of power to the US president in 1934 is widely believed to have been a necessary requisite for tariff reductions in ensuing years. According to conventional wisdom, delegation to the president sheltered Congress from constituent pressure thereby facilitating the opening of the US economy and the emergence of the United States as a world power. This article suggests a revision to our understanding of just how that occurred. Through a close study of the US tariff schedule between 1928 and 1964, focusing on highly protected products, we examine which products were subject to liberalization and at what time. After 1934, delegation led to a change in trade policy, not because Congress gave up their constitutional prerogative in this domain but because presidents were able to target the potential economic dislocation that derives from import competition to avoid the creation of a congressional majority willing to halt the trade agreements program.