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Divided Government and U.S.Trade Policy: Much Ado About Nothing?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 July 2003

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Abstract

Scholars assert that divided government impedes the liberalization of U.S. trade policy. They claim that presidents favor freer trade and will use the negotiating authority Congress delegates to them to reach agreements lowering trade barriers. Since presidents gain more support from their congressional co-partisans, less liberalization ensues under divided government. This theory rests on the premise that party is unrelated to congressional trade policy preferences beyond legislators' tendencies to support their presidential co-partisans. Yet before 1970 congressional Democrats were relatively free trading regardless of the president's party affiliation. Since then, the same has been true of Republicans. Divided government facilitates the trade policies of presidents from the protectionist party since they win more support from their “opposition” in this area. Divided government does impede the efforts of presidents from the free-trading party to liberalize. I conclude that divided government has no consistent effect on trade policy outcomes.

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Research Notes
Copyright
Copyright © The IO Foundation 2000

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