Several varieties of bilateral trade arrangements were tried in the United States from independence to 1909. They included most-favored-nation (MFN) treaties of the conditional and unconditional varieties, MFN treaties in which the conditionality was implicit, preferential trade arrangements, and agreements of a different nature authorized by the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 and the Dingley Act of 1897. This essay is an inquest of the varieties of U.S. trade arrangements and their effects on bilateral trade flows. It surveys the several varieties, discusses the circumstances of their usage, and uses a gravity model to estimate empirically their effects. The empirical results show that bilateralism’s effects on trade flows are contingent upon its varieties and historical circumstances.
Keywords: Bilateralism, international trade treaties, most-favored-nation, preferential trade agreements, reciprocity, trade policy
Jel Code: N71, F13