Introductory Trade Issues: History, Institutions, and Legal Framework

Read this chapter. While we are all a part of the economy, we can't see all parts of an economy at any one time. This chapter describes policy issues, controversies, and the history of international trade. You will learn about international economics, FTAs, GATT, WTO, anti-subsidy laws, and bound vs. applied tariffs. You will read about real-world issues such as policies restricting trade and forging agreements to reduce trade barriers. Test your knowledge by answering the exercises in each section.


Economics is a social science whose purpose is to understand the workings of the real-world economy. An economy is something that no one person can observe in its entirety. We are all a part of the economy, we all buy and sell things daily, but we cannot observe all parts and aspects of an economy at any one time.

For this reason, economists build mathematical models, or theories, meant to describe different aspects of the real world. For some students, economics seems to be all about these models and theories, these abstract equations and diagrams. However, in actuality, economics is about the real world, the world we all live in.

For this reason, it is important in any economics course to describe the conditions in the real world before diving into the theory intended to explain them. In this case, in a textbook about international trade, it is very useful for a student to know some of the policy issues, the controversies, the discussions, and the history of international trade.

This first chapter provides an overview of the real world with respect to international trade. It explains not only where we are now but also where we have been and why things changed along the way. It describes current trade laws and institutions and explains why they have been implemented.

With this overview about international trade in the real world in mind, a student can better understand why the theories and models in the later chapters are being developed. This chapter lays the groundwork for everything else that follows.

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