US Perspectives on International Trade Relations
Chapter 1: Analytical Framework
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE POLICY-MAKING: A BRIEF REMINDER Traditional explanations of international trade policy-making generally have been clustered into system-centred, society-centred and state-centred approaches.1 International, or system-centered approaches explain American foreign policy as a function of the attributes or capabilities of the United States relative to other nationstates. In this view, government officials are perceived as responding to the particular set of opportunities and constraints that America’s position in the international system creates at any moment in time. Society-centered approaches view American policy as either reflecting the preferences of the dominant group or class in society, or as resulting from the struggle for influence that takes place among various interest groups or parties. In either case, this approach explains foreign economic policy essentially as a function of domestic politics. Third, statecentered approaches view foreign economic policy as highly constrained by domestic institutional relationships that have persisted over time, and also by the ability of state officials to realize their objectives in light of both international and domestic constraints. This approach emphasizes the institutional structures of the state and the capacities of political and administrative officials who occupy positions within it.2 To simplify even further, in the trade policy area, the main division is between exogenous and endogenous explanations for policies. The global economy and power distribution among states are the focus of exogenous theories, while endogenous theories concentrate more on the ‘black box’ of domestic political and economic developments.3 Exogenous, system-centred perspectives take as a point of departure the...
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