Analyse: This work examines U.S. trade policy in the context of the genesis of the Uruguay Round and the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. Highlighting the interplay of the international bargaining process in the GATT and developments in the political economy of the United States from 1981 to 1990, the study finds an erosion of the domestic support for GATT-based multilateral trade liberalization.

Although the United States played a leading role in setting up the Uruguay Round, rising protectionist pressures severely restricted its negotiating flexibility in the GATT. They also caused US policy to shift from its long-standing reliance for trade liberalization on the multilateral framework toward an opening of foreign markets through bilateral agreements and unilateral pressure.

The 1988 Trade Act reinforced this shift. By 1990, the Uruguay Round had not succeeded in rebuilding a strong domestic constituency in the United States for the multilateral system.