Taking Trade to the Streets

The Lost History of Public Efforts to Shape Globalization
Susan Ariel Aaronson
Forewords by Pat Choate and I. M. Destler
Traces the history of civil society involvement in the international trade debate


In the wake of civil protest in Seattle during the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting, many issues raised by globalization and increasingly free trade have been in the forefront of the news. But these issues are not necessarily new. Taking Trade to the Streets describes how so many individuals and nongovernmental organizations over time came to see trade agreements as threatening national systems of social and environmental regulations. Using the United States as a case study, Susan Aaronson examines the history of trade agreement critics, focusing particular attention on NAFTA and the Tokyo and Uruguay Rounds of trade liberalization under the GATT. She also considers the question of whether such trade agreement critics are truly protectionist.

The book explores how trade agreement critics built a fluid global movement to redefine the terms of trade agreements (the international system of rules governing trade) and to redefine how citizens talk about trade. (The "terms of trade" is a relationship between the prices of exports and of imports.) That movement, which has been growing since the 1980s, transcends borders as well as long-standing views about the role of government in the economy. While many trade agreement critics on the left say they want government policies to make markets more equitable, they find themselves allied with activists on the right who want to reduce the role of government in the economy.

Aaronson highlights three hot-button social issues-food safety, the environment, and labor standards-to illustrate how conflicts arise between trade and other types of regulation. And finally she calls for a careful evaluation of the terms of trade from which an honest debate over regulating the global economy might emerge.

Ultimately, Taking Trade to the Streets links the history of trade policy to that of social regulation. It is a social, political, and economic history that will be of interest to policymakers, students of history, economics, political science, government, trade, sociology, and international affairs.

Susan Ariel Aaronson is Senior Fellow at the National Policy Association, a Washington-based think tank, and an occasional commentator on NPR's Morning Edition. She is the author of Trade and the American Dream: A Social History of Postwar Trade Policy; Are There Trade-Offs When Americans Trade? and Trade Is Everybody's Business. Aaronson is a frequent speaker on public understanding of trade and globalization issues. She was a regular commentator on NPR's Marketplace from 1995 to 1998 and occasionally appears on CNN and PBS to discuss the history of economic policy.

Praise / Awards

  • "Susan Aaronson provides a fascinating and informative account of how labor and environmental activists have changed the trade policy debate in America."
    —Douglas Irwin, Dartmouth College
  • "Susan Aaronson recognizes that these [trade] issues have ample precedent . . . the trade community must help fashion constructive responses to today's social concerns. Aaronson's book helps us find ways to do so."
    —I. M. Destler, University of Maryland, College Park, and the Institute of International Economics, from the Foreword
  • "Susan Aaronson has emerged as an important commentator on the contentious issue of globalization. Her insights are penetrating; her views compel attention. This book should prove to be an influential contribution to the ongoing debate."
    —Jagdish Bhagwati, Columbia University
  • "Clear, cogent, thoughtful . . . a major contribution to the understanding of where the United States, indeed the world, is in this heretofore largely undocumented evolution."
    —Pat Choate, economist, author, and Director of the Manufacturing Policy Project in Washington, DC, from the Foreword
  • "This is a stimulating book and it certainly helps to inform the public and scholars about the roots of ongoing trade debate. [sic] In particular, Aaronson is to be commended for looking behind the slogans 'protectionism' and 'free trade' and showing that the debate is more complex and variegated than many editorial writers seem to think."
    —Alfred E. Eckes, EH.Net, August 2001
  • "With a historical angle, Aaronson helps deepen the current debate."
    Foreign Affairs, September-October 2001
  • ". . . A rich and prodigiously referenced narrative that provides a solid introduction to the domestic debate in the United States on trade policy."
    —Robert Faulkner, International Affairs, Volume 78, No. 1 (2002)
  • "A week before the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, I began reading Susan Aaronson's Taking Trade to the Streets. I finished the book in my hotel on the eve of the summit. It was then that I began wishing I'd brought along 10,034 extra copies—thirty-four for President Bush and the other leaders, ten thousand for the activists outside the security fences....the book should be read by those who are arguing over the pluses and minuses of free trade and globalization."
    —Mark Memmott , The International Economy

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 288pp.
  • 3 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08867-6

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  • $29.95 U.S.

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