The Smoot-Hawley Fixation: Putting the Sino-U.S. Trade War in Contemporary and Historical Perspective

Item Type Journal paper
Abstract The extent to which the Sino-US trade war represents a break from the past is examined. This ongoing trade war is benchmarked empirically against the Smoot–Hawley tariff increase and against the sustained, covert discrimination by governments against foreign commercial interests witnessed since the start of the global economic crisis. The Sino-US trade war is not the defining moment that some contend. Thus, laying the blame for the current woes of global trade entirely at the feet of policymakers in Beijing or Washington, D.C., is unfounded. Since the rot started well before 2018 and implicates many states, greater attention should be given to the factors determining the unilateral commercial policies of governments during and after a systemic economic crisis. The insights from the economic history literature of the 1930s presented here are useful in this regard. Moreover, claims that existing multilateral trade rules have bite are hard to square with the very large shares of global trade affected by policy measures favouring local firms implemented over the past decade. When confronted with severe adverse economic conditions for better or for worse, WTO members had plenty of policy space after all.
Authors Evenett, Simon
Journal or Publication Title Journal of International Economic Law
Language English
Subjects economics
Refereed Yes
Date December 2019
Volume 22
Number 4
Page Range 535-555
Number of Pages 21
ISSN 1464-3758
Publisher DOI
Depositing User Prof. PhD Simon Evenett
Date Deposited 25 Mar 2020 15:37
Last Modified 20 Jul 2022 17:41


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Evenett, Simon (2019) The Smoot-Hawley Fixation: Putting the Sino-U.S. Trade War in Contemporary and Historical Perspective. Journal of International Economic Law, 22 (4). 535-555. ISSN 1464-3758

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