An Overview of the U.S. Trade Systems and Trade Agreements Through the Years

Close up of businessmen shaking hands. Global network and a world map in the foreground. block chain concept.

As you sit in front of a screen and read these words, there are millions of goods and products being transported across borders. Many of the products we encounter every day have a long and arduous journey from where they are manufactured to the shelves of our stores. Trade impacts our economy in a significant way, and it’s why over the years we have seen changes to the way the country approaches its trade policies and why it has become a hot-button issue in elections and during difficult economic times. 

The U.S Constitution grants Congress the power of trade activities between foreign countries. Trade within states is regulated and overseen by the states themselves. Over the decades, the United States went from a far more protectionist nation to one that embraced free trade and emphasized its benefits. 

From Protectionism to Expansion of Imports and Exports

The state of U.S. trade policy has evolved since the Great Depression. The country’s views and needs have grown and shifted dramatically since then. Tariffs and dutiable imports reached 60%. There was no central organization that oversaw the changes that occurred in trade across the globe, so many local laws were shielded from understanding the bigger picture.

Before the Great Depression, the U.S was far more isolationist in both its trade policy and foreign policy, but the 20th century had its plans for America and the rest of the world, and events that transpired shifted the American approach to trade to a far more open policy. 

It Begins with a Little Act Called Smoot-Hawley

The U.S was in dire straits in an attempt to fix the domestic economic situation, so Congress had to make moves to remedy this by finding ways to grow the economy and get things moving again. The tariff act raised duties on over 20,000 imported goods and may not have had the effect desired. This led many U.S trading partners to step back and cause a reduction in total U.S trade volumes. Many historians argue that the Smoot-Hawley act deepened the Great Depression. 

Not long after, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Reciprocal Tariff Act, which gave the President authority to negotiate reciprocal trade agreements. Around this time tariffs were reduced with 21 countries, which helped spur economic growth. Of course, it wasn’t until WWII, that U.S production and manufacturing boomed. After the war, GATT was signed. This was the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. 

The Trade Act of 1974, addressed many concerns for U.S trading companies that were seeing themselves as unable to complete with unjust import competition. This law imposed adequate procedures to help protect the American industry amidst a growing and exponentially more complex international market. 

In 1995, the World Trade Organization replaced GATT and helped a surge of free trade agreements after the Cold War. In this era, the percentage that was subject to tariffs dropped from 65% in 1990 to about 30% in 2017. 

President Reagan’s Impact on Trade in the Late 20th Century 

President Ronald Reagan helped continue to push the move towards more free trade. As a stalwart proponent of conservative policies, Reagan understood that opening up trade for America meant increasing opportunities. In 1988, Reagan gave a radio address about the virtues of having a free trade society and the economic and social benefits that this provided a society. He pointed to the pattern of free nations and their prosperity after imposing free trade laws and allowing for more freedom in the import and export realm.

Reagan declared “We should beware of the demagogues who are ready to declare a trade war against our friends, weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world all while cynically waving the American flag. The expansion of the international economy is not a foreign invasion. It is an American triumph.” 

It was this mode of thinking that continued a trend towards a trade policy that made the international exchange of goods more accessible. 

The Complexities of the Ever-Changing Trade Industry 

Developing a product to ship to international markets is a long and hard journey with plenty of steps and hurdles to overcome. It’s not always easy, as there are competing interests, politics, changing regulations from every angle. It’s a fast-moving industry that must adapt to the conditions and regulations of other countries, as well as changing economic and cultural trends.

As international markets and nations see ups and downs and changes in their administrations and leaderships, those changes are reflected in the policies and regulations imposed on importers and exporters. A customs broker is a middleman that does the heavy lifting when it comes to researching and following these changing rules. 

Stay on Top of The Changing Trends in Trade Policy with a Trusted Customs Broker

As a customs broker, Cordova Brokerage takes care of doing the leg work in ensuring you are in compliance with your import or exports to and from the U.S. We are here to provide accurate service and facilitate the difficulty in maneuvering U.S trade restrictions and law. 

Contact a reliable customs broker at Cordova today for questions regarding imports and exports. 

 

A Look at Two of America’s Biggest Exports: Aircraft and Automotive 

Container ship in import export and business logistic. Trade Port. Shipping, cargo to harbor and Cargo plane with working crane bridge in shipyard at sunrise, logistic import export and transport indu

The U.S economy is far less dependent on trade than you might think, even though we do our fair share of trading across the world. In 2019, the total value of all U.S exports accounted for about 11% of GDP. Each state has its dominant industries and you can tell a lot about a state by looking at their major exports. You can tell a lot about a country as well. 

The United States is certainly known for its innovation around the world, and it might be telling that some of our major exports are aircraft and electrical equipment. If you look at it state by state, you’ll find that U.S exports are also incredibly diverse, since the country is vast and each state has different natural resources and leading industries. So we thought we’d take a look at some of the biggest exports of the United States and their histories. 

Many states have major exports that become their staples and embed themselves into the identity of the state. In states like Pennsylvania, for example, coal is the top export. In the great state of Texas, we know that we are an oil-producing state and that is one of our biggest exports. Many might remember the once-upon-a-time football team, the Houston Oilers. 

The Invention of Flight

The story of the Wright brothers is a familiar story of perseverance, brilliance, and hard work. The two grew up together in Dayton, Ohio, always pursuing their curiosity. The two went into the printing business in 1889. Three years later, they opened a bicycle shop. The two built and fixed bicycles for several years before the talk of flying machines began to further spark their curiosity. This experience would be crucial when it came to designing their first flying machine. 

They began with a small kite to test some of their theories regarding control. It took them several attempts to finally break ground with a 12-second flight in 1903. This became the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve sustained flight. Just before World War I, the brothers’ 1909 Model A flyer was sold to the U.S Army Corps for $30,000. It was less than a decade that the first airplane was landing on a carrier for military purposes. 

The advancement of aircraft is closely and intricately linked with military operations and needs. The biggest leaps in these innovations happened for defense purposes and were then used in commercial settings. Aerial reconnaissance dates back to even before World War I. The use of observation balloons was the first step to this military tactic, but balloons could only offer so much subtlety. From there, some of the Army’s first flyers began to emerge. One was the Glenn Martin Bomber, a two-engine bomber that could carry up to four crew members and five machine guns.  

That speaks volumes about the innovative spirit and urgency that surrounded the invention of aircraft and airplanes. America’s biggest exporter today is Boeing. They are the world’s largest aerospace company; they assemble commercial airplanes and defense products. As of December 2019, Boeing employed over 143,000 employees.  They are the U.S Defense Department’s biggest contractor. 

The Invention of Automobiles in America 

Nothing has ever been the same since the invention of the internal combustion engine. The first stationary gas engine was invented by Karl Benz in 1879. He is often credited with being the father of the automobile. When it comes to cars in America, we usually think of Ford when we think of early pioneers in the automotive industry. 

Along with Ford, we think of Chrysler and Dodge. All companies that are still standing today. Many people might not be aware, however, that 485 automobile companies entered the industry between 1899-1909, but it was Ford that seemed to surpass them all once he introduced this revolutionary Model N. As Ford introduces the assembly line and mass production begins, there is nothing to stop the mass production that leads to mass consumption and demand of automobiles. 

Today, automobiles totaled a worldwide US$758.4 billion. By value, cars represent the world’s number two exported product by value, behind crude oil and just ahead of electronics. The United States is the number #3 exporters of cars in the world behind Germany and Japan. 

The United States loves its cars. We have many unique companies working on the design and innovative ways to improve the way we drive. The world of electric cars is just getting started and companies like Tesla are here to stay. 

With such a large country, it’s no surprise that we have a great amount of innovation and invention. Here at Cordova Brokerage, we help exports and importers go through the intricate system of customs, warehousing, and more. 

A Look at Global Trade During 2020 and Moving Forward

Cargo ships entering one of the busiest ports in the world, Singapore.The year 2020 has been a bit of a wild ride. Well, that’s certainly an understatement. For many people in this country, the year has been filled with nightmarish rollercoaster-like ups and downs, twists and turns, and probably some machine malfunctions, ungreased gears, and loose screws. And yet, America—being the resilient and robust economy that it is— continues forward and marches on. So while every industry, every person, every sports team, business, and school is being, in some way, affected by changing regulations and people’s sudden hypersensitivity to personal space and hygiene, the global market is also seeing its effects. According to some reports, the global economy is seeing the sharpest reversal since the Great Depression. The drop was quite dramatic in the early months of the shutdown and has seen some steady recovery since. 

The Ever-Changing Markets 

If you are in the business of exporting or importing goods, you know that the market, regulations, and tides of trade are always shifting and ebbing and flowing. This year was specifically turbulent because of unprecedented circumstances. As of April 2020, 6.6 million Americans were seeking unemployment benefits. This has, of course, great implications for the domestic economy and will see the ripple effects moving through the whole of society pretty soon. The pandemic has certainly upended many international trade flows, though the U.S import and export movement must continue. It has certainly made countries think much more carefully about who they are trading with and how they conduct business abroad. 

China is, of course, coming under fire from many countries including the U.S and India. As of June of 2020, many Indian businesses were all boycotting Chinese products. India has already banned certain products, apps, and other items from China. In April, Japanese officials injected $2 billion to boost domestic manufacturing. Other countries, as reported by US News, like France have expressed their need to refocus their trading partners and reassess their relationship with people from China. White House economic advisor Peter Navarro told reporters that he thought, “We are dangerously over-dependent on a global supply chain.” 

These movements have led many to report that nationalism and more nationalistic trade policies will emerge the victors after the smoke clears. As Forbes reports, there have already been several reports to block exports of certain items. And this, according to them, might lead governments to be a lot more selective about what they deem essential exports and imports. 

Impact on Imports and Exports 

The pandemic has also had significant effects on imports and exports; it has disrupted supply chains, reduced trade volumes, and limited product availability. While this causes concern for traders, it doesn’t mean all of it is dismal news. Because all markets are interconnected — from Europe to India to the U.S — a disruption to one part of the chain will often have some effects on the other. 

Some analysts are predicting that returning to normal will be a difficult fight. Many believe that the outbreak has permanently altered the global flow of goods and services. The pre-coronavirus norms seemed to have open free-flowing trade across global markets, as globalization seemed to be the 21st century way of trading. The political popularity of globalization has suffered quite a bit and many countries are looking for ways to remain a little more conservative on their trade, or, at the very least, have much more discretion on who they trade with. 

And so while pre-corona trade patterns may not return, international trade, imports, and exports will continue to be a large part of the U.S economy as we continue trading with our allies and close trading partners. There is no question that the pandemic has brought about a change in the international markets, but exactly what kind of change is yet to be seen. Other industries like pharmaceuticals might see their changes as well, as countries begin to kickstart the production of some of these goods in their own borders. In the U.S, according to Market Watch, imports fell 6.2% but U.S exports fell even deeper with 9.6%. 

The U.S trade deficit also widened by almost 12% in March as international flights were not allowed to fly, which froze the global tourism. At the same time, the exchange of goods was also affected. The U.S exported fewer cars, aircraft parts, and barrels of petroleum. 

As far as the big picture is visible right now, some segments of international commerce are faring better than others. For example, trade in medical supplies and food, but the global petroleum market has been hard hit. The movement of electronic goods like iPhones has also decreased dramatically. And while the recovery of the global economy might take some time, there will not be a shortage of need for international trade, especially in certain industries. There has been some decline in freight and cargo shipments for a variety of reasons including the fact that many companies have had to shut their doors and many ports and transportation workers were either sick or unable to return to work. 

In these uncertain times, you need to have a brokerage you can trust. Here at Cordova Brokerage, we are entrenched in the movements of the markets and global trade in order to provide our clients with the latest information and pertinent changes. If you are importing or exporting goods, things might seem a little chaotic. Find a brokerage you can trust to walk you through the ever-changing markets, regulations, and compliance restrictions.