Early American Trade with China

Trade Routes & Trading Strategies

Economics of the China Trade

Contrasting Views of Trade

Life on a Merchant Ship


The American View of Trade

Introducing the Lesson

Solicit students’ views on trade, economics, and foreign relations. Questions to ask and discuss might include:


  • How important is trade for the United States?

  • If we could manufacture everything we needed to survive here in the United States, would trade be necessary? Would it be desirable?

  • What problems are caused by trade?

  • Does the United States need to be on “friendly” terms with the countries with which it trades?

  • How much cooperation is needed for trade?

  • How does trade affect other non-economic aspects of our relationships with other countries?

Distribute the reading on the "American Ideas about Trade" to stimulate a discussion concerning the ideas which underlie America’s search for a successful trade with China. The questions in this activity encourage students to think about and define economic terms and concepts which play a key role in understanding classic economics.

The idea of free trade will be raised in this discussion. "Free trade" can be defined as international trade which is unencumbered by protectionist government policies like taxes on imports (tariffs) or a restriction on the amount of a good allowed to be imported (quota).

Students need to be reminded that the idea of free trade has never been fully realized in the United States. Soon after achieving independence, tension developed between agricultural interests who wanted unencumbered exports and industrial interests who sought protection for developing industries. The struggle between proponents of free trade and protectionism has been a constant throughout our history.

Other material which would be useful for this discussion is the reading on mercantilism in Lesson 1.

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