Using trade as a weapon of foreign policy has harmed America’s economic interests in the world without advancing national security. The proliferation of trade sanctions in the 1990s has been accompanied by their declining effectiveness. From Cuba to Iran to Burma, sanctions have failed to achieve the goal of changing the behavior or the nature of target regimes. Sanctions have managed only to deprive American companies of investment opportunities and market share and to punish domestic consumers, while hurting the poor and most vulnerable in the target countries.

The powerful connection between economic openness and political and civil freedom provides yet another argument for pursuing an expansion of global trade. In the Middle East, China, Cuba, Central America, and other regions, free trade can buttress U.S. foreign policy by tilling foreign soil for the spread of democracy and human rights.

More on Trade and Foreign Policy


Cato Studies

A Free Trade Agreement with South Korea Would Promote Both Prosperity and Security

By Doug Bandow. Trade Briefing Paper No. 31. October 20, 2010.

A Harsh Climate for Trade: How Climate Change Proposals Threaten Global Commerce

By Sallie James. Trade Policy Analysis No. 41. September 9, 2009.

Audaciously Hopeful: How President Obama Can Help Restore the Pro-Trade Consensus

By Daniel J. Ikenson and Scott Lincicome. Trade Policy Analysis No. 39. April 28, 2009.


Privateers! Their History and Future

Alexander Tabarrok and Alex Nowrasteh. Fletcher Security Review. Vol. 2. No. 1. January 28, 2015.

Financial Services in the TTIP: Making the Prudential Exception Work

Inu Barbee and Simon Lester. Georgetown Journal of International Law. Vol. 45. No. 4. 2014.

Yes, McKinnon Is Right, Again

Steve H. Hanke. The International Economy. Spring 2013.

Public Filings

Trade Promotion Agencies and U.S. Foreign Policy

By Daniel J. Ikenson. Testimony. May 19, 2015.

The Pilot Program on NAFTA Long-Haul Trucking Provisions

By Daniel Griswold. Testimony. May 4, 2011.

Sanctions on Japan are a Lose-Lose Game

By William A. Niskanen. Testimony. June 13, 1995.

Cato Reviews & Journals

The U.S. Export- Import Bank, Boeing, and the Value of Friends in High Places

Peter J. McCort. Regulation. Fall 2015.

Protectionism by Any Other Name

Pierre Lemieux. Regulation. Fall 2014.

U.S-Japanese Trade: Myths and Realities

Steve H. Hanke. Cato Journal. Winter 1984.


Will the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Live Up to Its Promise?

Featuring Daniel J. Ikenson, Daniel R. Pearson, Simon Lester, & K. William Watson. October 12, 2015. Conference.

Economic Interdependence and War

Featuring John Mueller and Justin Logan. May 12, 2015. Book Forum.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism: An Examination of Benefits and Costs

Featuring Daniel J. Ikenson and Simon Lester. May 20, 2014. Conference.


Trade, Democracy and Peace: The Virtuous Cycle

By Daniel Griswold. April 20, 2007.

Four Decades of Failure: The U.S. Embargo against Cuba

By Daniel Griswold. October 12, 2005.

Capitol Hill Forum: Can Free Trade Promote Peace in the Middle East?

By Daniel Griswold. June 23, 2003.