Books by Steve Dryden

Released: Feb. 1, 1995

Former Business Week correspondent Dryden shows how economic reality can undermine lofty ideals in his engrossing history of the US trade representative, the White House official charged with looking out for America's export/import interests. Drawing on a variety of sources, the author tracks the checkered record compiled by the US trade representatives since the post's 1962 establishment by JFK. Free trade ranks among those canons as honored in the breach as in the observance, and over the years, the many men (Christian Herter, Robert Strauss, Clayton Yeutter, et al.) and one woman (Carla Hills) who served as USTR have had to battle protectionists at home and abroad. On occasion, they have been obliged to embrace expedients that fly in the face of bedrock laissez-faire principles, e.g., persuading the Japanese to curb their shipments of passenger cars into the American market. If necessary, moreover, USTRs engage in enforcement actions, like those mounted against the European governments that give indigenous farmers a home-field advantage and subsidize the consortium that manufactures Airbus jetliners. While headline-grabbing conflicts may provide the drama that alerts a drowsy public to free trade's importance, Dryden leaves little doubt that the patient bargaining done by USTR technocrats on America's behalf in successive rounds of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and drafting bilateral or multilateral accords like NAFTA are appreciably more consequential. The same holds true for ongoing efforts to propitiate chauvinistic pols, reduce so-called structural impediments (e.g., onerous technical requirements), allow for fluctuations in currency-exchange rates, obtain mutually beneficial concessions from trading partners, penalize dumping, and otherwise ensure that the international market keeps barriers to the unrestricted flow of goods or services to a minimum. An authoritative and illuminating perspective on America's not always consistent campaign to promote free (or at least more liberal) trade around the world. (20 illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >