chapter  8
7 Pages

Conclusions

This book set out to trace and explain the seemingly unique character of the T&C sector with respect to the governance of world trade. In completing this task, the book tackled arguably the most perennial and deep-rooted of all questions in political economy – that is, given the widely accepted premise that free trade is the best available means for maximizing overall societal welfare, why has it proven historically to be so difficult to bring about? The orthodox response to this question rests on liberal theories of collective action, wherein trade policy is explained in terms of the political imbalance between protectionist forces and more disparate groups that are likely to benefit from free trade. The puzzle that these conventional accounts have always had difficulty solving, however, is that of why (assuming that similar collective action dynamics are at work) there has been historically such marked variation in the levels of protection afforded to different industries. After all, there are many industries sharing similar technological and economic characteristics – and therefore presumably similar collective action dynamics as well – but which have not been afforded anywhere near the same levels of protection. And when it comes to explaining the eventual liberalization of hitherto protected industries, what changes to alter these collective action dynamics so dramatically to enable the disparate beneficiaries of free trade to prevail?