Linking Trade to Political Goals: Foreign Policy Export Controls in the 1970s and 1980s

Kenneth W. Abbott

Arizona State University


Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 65, p. 739, 1981

During the late 1970s, the executive branch imposed an unprecedented variety of restrictions on private commercial exports in efforts to further particular goals of United States foreign policy. The principal source of executive power during this period was the Export Administration Act of 1969 (EAA '69), which delegated to the President the authority to prohibit or curtail exports for the purposes set forth in the Act. In 1974 and 1977, two provisions incorporating recently established foreign policy goals were added to the Act: the first approved the use of export controls to combat restrictions imposed by other nations on access to raw materials and other supplies; the second authorized the use of controls to discourage other nations from assisting international terrorists.

At the same time, the United States was coping with a large trade deficit, leading many to question the growing reliance on foreign policy export controls. The Export Administration Act of 1979 (EAA '79) attempts to restrict presidential authority to institute political export controls. As the 1980s began, however, foreign policy controls continued to flourish.

This article describes the United States export control system as it operated under EAA '69 and, in most respects, as it operates today. The article analyzes the rationales for the use of export controls to further foreign policy and suggests that controls are appropriate in relatively few situations. The foreign policy provisions of EAA '79 are also considered. The article concludes with recommendations for further limiting the use of foreign policy export controls.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 152

Keywords: International relations, economics, export controls

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Date posted: May 18, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Kenneth W., Linking Trade to Political Goals: Foreign Policy Export Controls in the 1970s and 1980s (1981). Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 65, p. 739, 1981. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1402954

Contact Information

Kenneth Wayne Abbott (Contact Author)
Arizona State University ( email )
Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
480-965-5917 (Phone)
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