May 16, 2011 11:39AM

Celebrating ‘World Trade Week’ by Remembering Smoot‐​Hawley

Carrying on an annual tradition dating back to President Franklin Roosevelt, President Obama issued a proclamation on Friday declaring this third week in May “World Trade Week.”

Of course, every week is world trade week at the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, but in order to do our part as good citizens, we’ve organized a book forum this Tuesday, May 17, at 4 p.m. on a new book by Dartmouth College economist Douglas Irwin, titled, Peddling Protectionism: Smoot‐​Hawley and the Great Depression.

The Smoot‐​Hawley tariff bill is a fitting subject for any World Trade Week. As we note in the invitation:

More than 80 years after its passage, the Smoot‐​Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 still resonates in today’s debate over trade policy. Advocates of trade blame the law for deepening the Great Depression and warn of the economic damage from a reversion to protectionism. Skeptics of trade say its impact has been exaggerated. Economist and historian Douglas Irwin tells the messy and, at times, amusing story of how Congress dramatically raised tariffs in 1930 just as the world was plunging into depression, and analyzes the economic consequences of the most infamous trade bill ever enacted by Congress. Irwin then draws important lessons that can help today’s trade policymakers avoid the costly mistakes of the past.

Professor Irwin will talk about his book and answer questions about this turning point in U.S. trade history. There is still time to sign up here to attend the event in person at Cato’s F.A. Hayek Auditorium, or you can watch the live video feed online here.