America's Trade Policy Towards Japan: Demanding Results by John Kunkel

By John Kunkel

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Extra info for America's Trade Policy Towards Japan: Demanding Results (Routledge Advances in International Political Economy, 11)

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Indeed, many different rules and norms of legitimate action will be operative in a political system at any given time. This gives institutional politics not only its patterns of order, but also patterns of conflict. From this standpoint, institutional politics is most significant ‘as the arena in which different rules of legitimate order converge, collide, and fold back on one another’ (Skowronek 1995: 95). Perceptions of regime legitimacy take on particular significance in this context, as do issues of historical contingency.

Nixon’s, and Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter were more devoted free traders than John F. Kennedy. But all proved willing to play the role of tilting in the liberal direction – in the decisions they made themselves and in the appointments they made to key trade positions. The 1980s would see an unprecedented test of the legitimacy of the 1934 regime, its central norm of executive primacy and the process-oriented multilateralism that had been at the centre of American trade strategy for around forty years.

The mid-1980s was one such turning point for American trade policy. The regime crisis acted as a conditioning variable, paving the way for a results-oriented trade policy towards Japan. It illuminates a role for path dependency, where actions taken at one point in time result in opportunities for and constraints on future action by sending policy off on particular tracks. It would have long-lasting consequences as Congress moved to reclaim a more central role in US trade policy and the executive branch embraced a more structured and aggressive bilateral market access policy.

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