Trade and Democratic Values

27 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2012

See all articles by Frederick M. Abbott

Frederick M. Abbott

Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: September 30, 1991


This essay concerns the fundamental principles that will guide congressional deliberations regarding trade policy in the coming months and years. There is no question but that Congress must respond effectively to progressive social demands, such as demands that the environment not be sacrificed to an unbridled adherence to the concept of free trade. At the same time, Congress must not lose sight of certain fundamental principles that have guided U.S. trade policy since the Second World War. The underlying commitment of the United States to liberal trade policy is not based on a simplistic commitment to comparative advantage as an end in itself, but is deeply rooted in a commitment to democratic values.

Although a persuasive textbook case might be made for managed trade, central government control over trade has consistently resulted in dramatic economic and social failure, or economic success coupled with social conditions that would be intolerable in the United States.

The liberal trading system must become more responsive to the interests of the environment and human well-being. It is capable of being adapted to meet the demands of the twenty-first century. This essay offers a few modest suggestions as to how this goal might be accomplished. The central message of this essay, however, is that adherence to the underlying principles of the liberal trading system and the accomplishment of progressive social goals are not mutually exclusive. It is imperative that progressive social goals not be confused with the interests of industries that have failed to respond to international competition.

Keywords: trade, democratic values, industrial policy, environment

JEL Classification: F02, F11, K33

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Frederick M., Trade and Democratic Values (September 30, 1991). Minnesota Journal of Global Trade, Vol. 1, No.1, p. 9, 1992, FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper, FSU College of Law, Law, Business & Economics Paper, Available at SSRN:

Frederick M. Abbott (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States
850-644-1572 (Phone)
850-645-4862 or 917-591-3112 (Fax)

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