Papers presented by Janick Marina Schaufelbuehl since 2019

2020 Charlotte, North Carolina

"U.S. Business and the Pivotal Issue of Free Trade, 1947-1957"

Janick Marina Schaufelbuehl, University of Lausanne


In the post-war years, U.S. business leaders had to take a stand on the question of whether or not to defend international free trade. Many C.E.O.s took part in a vigorous campaign supporting trade liberalization, the signing of a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (G.A.T.T.), the creation of an International Trade Organization (I.T.O.) and U.S. assistance to European reconstruction through the Marshall Plan, which was announced in 1947. These same business leaders were also supportive of the early stages In the post-war years, U.S. business leaders had to take a stand of European unification, leading to the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1954 and the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Other top executives opposed this strive towards free trade and argued for the necessity of protecting American industry’s interests through tariffs and not spending the tax-payers’ money to rebuild the European economy and ultimately strengthen America’s greatest economic competitor. Pro-liberalization business leaders organized in fresh ways in order to advance their positions, creating new business groups or reconfiguring existing ones. Thus, at the forefront of this campaign were the Committee for Economic Development (C.E.D.) created during the war, and later its lobbying arm, the Committee for a National Trade Policy, as well as the United Stated Council of the International Chamber of Commerce. Protectionist CEOs did not form a campaign that was nearly as efficient. The so-called Strackbein Committee, created in 1950, which counted the powerful Manufacturing Chemists Association among its members, never achieved comparable political clout. Based on new archival documents, this paper will examine the debate which took place within business on the issue of free trade, the fault lines that emerged between different economic sectors and the organizational and political means by which opposing positions were put forward and defended.


Cold War
international trade