The United States has completed numerous free trade agreements (FTAs), but the pattern of these agreements defies conventional explanations. Arguments that are based on domestic interests and economic gains cannot explain the comparative under-performance of US trade agreements. The pattern of US trade agreements is also inconsistent with explanations that focus on state power, which depict FTAs as a “reward” for loyal clients. This article finds a better explanation for the pattern of the United States’ FTAs by consideringthe systemic level of analysis, and in particular the dynamics of the international economic order. It illustrates that strong competition for bilateral trade agreements has resulted in patterns of agreements that the United States cannot easily dominate. This is not to say that the United States has no capacity to finalize trade agreements: the United States remains the world’s most influential nation-state, but the constraints of the international system necessarily limit the degree to which FTAs can serve the interests of US foreign economic policy. The recent evolution of international trade politics, however, indicates that smaller states are comparatively less vulnerable to pressure from great powers, such as the United States.
Field of Research
160606 Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific 160607 International Relations
Socio Economic Objective
940304 International Political Economy (excl. International Trade)
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