To the Editor:
Re 'Present at the Trade Wars,' by David Rockefeller (Op-Ed, Sept. 21):
This criticism of President Obama's decision to impose tariffs on imports of Chinese tires is an example of refighting an old, mostly irrelevant war.
Mr. Rockefeller's repetition of the mythology of the consequences of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act does not make it true. Few economists believe that it was a major cause of the Great Depression, much less of World War II.
More important, today's circumstances are far removed from those of the 1930s. The large, chronic trade imbalances that were a prime cause of our recent economic crisis did not exist then.
The main problem now is that these imbalances are significantly driven by the strategic export-led growth policies of China and several other countries that aim to accumulate large, continuous trade surpluses. In effect, they are applying their own brand of Smoot-Hawley.
Far from being protectionist, President Obama's tire tariffs are a signal to the surplus countries that their policies must change in order to save free trade.
Clyde Prestowitz Potomac, Md., Sept. 22, 2009
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