U.S. Economic Unilateralism: Implications for Pacific Basin Countries

by Julia F. Lowell

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In contrast to the multilateral, consensus-driven approach to world trade pursued by U.S. policymakers from approximately 1946 to 1985, U.S. trade policy today has a strong unilateral component. Nevertheless, the United States has by no means abandoned its long-standing claim to the role of free trade champion. One indication is that U.S. policymakers continue to emphasize market-opening measures abroad, as opposed to market-closing measures at home. Efforts to open foreign markets are justified not only in terms of the potential benefits to U.S. exporters, but also by increases in foreign consumer welfare. Other exporting nations may also benefit from U.S.-initiated market-opening measures. This paper synthesizes the results of a September 1996 conference designed to explore the implications of U.S. economic unilateralism for the countries of the Pacific Basin. The conference was co-sponsored by RAND's Center for Asia-Pacific Policy, The Japan-America Society of Southern California, and The Asia Society of Southern California. Background research for the conference was made possible by the Korea Foundation.

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