Scapegoating trade for problems real and imagined is nothing new. Blaming the Japanese, Mexicans, Chinese, and other foreigners for domestic woes ingratiates politicians to excitable elements of the electorate and helps them direct voter anger away from their own records. It has become a kind of quadrennial tradition ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) debate took center stage in the 1992 election.

Whereas trade economics focuses on the benefits of trade, emphasizing the net gains from specialization and trade, trade politics is more about the impediments to full liberalization and the processes through which gradual liberalization is made possible.

On this page you will find Cato’s analyses of the political obstacles to trade and the political processes through which liberalization is made possible.

More on Trade Politics


Here Are 202 Companies Hurt by Trump’s Tariffs

By Scott Lincicome. Reason (Online). September 14, 2018.

Metal Tariffs: A Nonsensical Solution in Search of a Problem

By Colin Grabow. The Hill (Online). August 9, 2018.

Duncan Hunter Should Stop Supporting the Jones Act and Sink This Rusted-Out Hulk of a Law

By Colin Grabow. Riverside Press-Enterprise. August 5, 2018.

Cato Studies

The Jones Act: A Burden America Can No Longer Bear

By Colin Grabow, Inu Manak, and Daniel J. Ikenson. Policy Analysis No. 845. June 28, 2018.

Political Rhetoric as Trade Barrier: Trump’s “Buy American” Campaign and U.S. Demand for Imports

By Jeffrey Kucik and Krzysztof Pelc. Research Briefs in Economic Policy No. 113. May 16, 2018.

Was Buenos Aires the Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning? The Future of the World Trade Organization

By James Bacchus. Policy Analysis No. 841. May 8, 2018.


The Jones Act in Perspective: A Survey of Costs and Effects of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act

Russ Kashian, Jeff Pagel, and Ike Brannon. Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. April 2017.

Bad Trade Talk

Simon Lester. The International Economy. Fall 2016.

Does Safeguards Need Saving? Lessons from the Ukraine - Passenger Cars Dispute

Arevik Gnutzmann-Mkrtchyan and Simon Lester. EUI Working Papers. October 192016.

Public Filings

Cato Reviews & Journals

Peter Navarro’s Conversion

Pierre Lemieux. Regulation. Fall 2018.

Cato Makes Free Trade Go Viral

Policy Report. May/June 2018.

How’s Your Trade War Going?

Pierre Lemieux. Regulation. Summer 2018.


#CatoConnects: NAFTA and the Trump Tariffs

Featuring Simon Lester, Inu Manak, and Caleb O. Brown. March 14, 2018. Cato Connects.

Clashing over Commerce: A History of U.S. Trade Policy

Featuring Douglas Irwin, Claude E. Barfield, and Daniel J. Ikenson. January 24, 2018. Book Forum.

Trump, Trade, and the Asia Pacific

Featuring Colin Grabow, Daniel J. Ikenson, and Peter Russo. November 29, 2017. Capitol Hill Briefing.


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

By Daniel Griswold. October 12, 2005.

Downsizing the Federal Government

Ending the Import-Export Bank

By Sallie James. October 2012.

International Trade Administration

By Tad DeHaven and Chris Edwards. February 2009.