Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2004


Free trade, Trade liberalization, Protectionism, Smoot-Hawley Act


International Trade Law


Predominant political theory holds that legislators are protectionist regarding international trade because susceptibility to minority interest groups leads them to vote in ways that protect domestic industries at the expense of free trade. Because free trade is widely regarded as beneficial to the majority, the protectionist tendency of the legislature is believed to be a disservice to most Americans. These two theories have led to policies that restrict the role of the legislature in the formulation of trade policy, specifically, the creation of the fast track framework for trade policy legislation that exists today. This Essay challenges these two theories, offering evidence that fast track legislation and the theories supporting a reduced role for the legislature in trade policy may be based on widely held, but unjustified, beliefs.


This article predates the author's affiliation with Cornell Law School.

Publication Citation

Chantal Thomas, "Challenges for Democracy and Trade: The Case of the United States", 41 Harvard Journal on Legislation (2004)