|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
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
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
Other material which would be useful for this discussion is the reading on mercantilism in