|Author(s):||Brusse, Wendy Asbeek|
|Reviewer(s):||Schenk, Catherine R.|
Published by EH.NET (February 1999)
Wendy Asbeek Brusse, Tariffs, Trade and European Integration 1947-1957:
From Study Group to Common Market, St. Martins Press, New York, 1997.
xiii + 318 pp. $49.95 (hardback), ISBN: 0312165188.
Reviewed for EH.NET by Catherine R. Schenk, Department of Economic and Social
History, University of Glasgow.
It is a courageous scholar who seeks to unravel the Byzantine history of trade
negotiations. Despite the general importance of trade policy to economic
performance and to
international political relations, the details of tariff bargaining are
notoriously arcane and tedious. Overcoming these drawbacks in her material,
Wendy Asbeek Brusse of the University of Groningen has written a comprehensive
and readable account of European trade diplomacy since 1945. Her main
contention is that tariff reduction was not merely a Common Market issue,
driven by The Six and culminating finally in the European Economic Community in
1957. Rather, tariff and trade negotiations took place simultaneously through
a variety of different international institutions and with a variety of goals
and outcomes. In an effort to present a more comprehensive and accurate account
of the manifold approaches to trade liberalization, Asbeek Brusse has not shied
away from this complexity.
Her account begins with two introductory chapters which describe trade policy
from the nineteenth century to 1947. These chapters offer little new to our
understanding of the 1940s but they set the scene for the European initiatives
of the 1950s. The next three substantive chapters of the book rely on the
archival records of six countries to describe the tariff initiatives expressed
through various international agencies. The initiatives under the auspices of
the OEEC had limited results due to the reversal of liberalization in the
early 1950s as a result of balance of payments deficits associated with the
Korean War . This chapter is the only place in which Asbeek Brusse attempts to
measure the impact of tariff barriers but
she relies mainly on the limited existing studies. Her original contribution
is to compare the frequency distribution of each country’s tariffs according to
their nominal rate for each SITC group. The results are unsurprising;
identifying high and low tariff groups. She also examines the number of
complaints about tariff barriers from individual countries through the OEEC.
This data may have as much to reveal about politics within the OEEC as the
burden of tariffs on particular industries.
A more complete assessment of real effective tariffs would have helped to give
context to the book’s account of trade diplomacy. Asbeek Brusse’s failure to
attempt this, however, may be justified since the diplomatic efforts themselves
were based on nominal tariff rate s. This is a history of economic diplomacy
rather than an economic history of tariffs in Europe.
The various still-born European initiatives in the GATT are described in the
next chapter and the American response is also brought into the story at this
st age. The subsequent chapter outlines the tariff proposals which culminated
in the Common Market among The Six. A final chapter describes national
policy-making in Britain, the Netherlands and Germany in an attempt to put
international economic diplomacy into the context of domestic debates. This
chapter rather whets the appetite for more since it is clear that the national
policies summarized in previous chapters were the result of domestic
compromises which are more revealing about the construction of tariff policy
than the international wrangling which is the focus of the book. The conflict
between imperial preference and Britain’s economic interests is particularly
revealing in this regard.
Overall, this is a well written and detailed account of tariff policy with
only a few minor weaknesses. The account does not include the international
monetary arrangements or exchange controls which were also used to influence
trade patterns in Europe. Including these may have made an already complicated
story unmanageable, but it requires that the book be read along with existing
work on the sterling area and the EPU. The complexity of the institutional
structure sometimes creeps into the organization of Asbeek Brusse’s text. For
example, the overlap of tariff negotiations is reflected in the inclusion of
the Collective Approach to convertibility and the Annecy Round of GATT in the
chapter on the OEEC.
Finally, most of the tables and graphs are almost illegible which is an
irritation for the reader. Nevertheless,
Asbeek Brusse’s book will be of use to graduate students and other scholars
trying to disentangle the complexities of post-war tariff diplomacy.
(Catherine Schenk is senior lecturer in Economic History at the University of
Glasgow. She is the author of
Britain and the Sterling Area,
(Routledge, 1994) and over a dozen articles on international monetary relations
since 1945. She is currently doing research on international financial centers
and is writing a book on Hong Kong as an International Financial
Center–Emergence and Development, 1945-65.)
|Subject(s):||International and Domestic Trade and Relations|
|Time Period(s):||20th Century: WWII and post-WWII|