NFTC Celebrates Centennial World Trade Dinner
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NFTC 100 Historic Timeline
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Past NFTC Presidents and Chairmen
This Week in Trade History
President Woodrow Wilson Address
Founding Members (1914)
NFTC Convention 1914 Attendees

This Week in Trade History

This Week in Trade History
As NFTC turns 100, we thought it would be fun to look back at various milestones in our history, and the history of trade policy, to see how far we've come and to track themes of the past, which still resonate today and into the future.

Join us here weekly (or follow on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter!) to get a sense of the issues – past, present, and future – of importance to the NFTC and our member companies.
  • December 15, 1993: The Uruguay Round of trade negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) concluded after seven years, resulting in an agreement among 117 countries (including the United States) to reduce trade barriers and to create more comprehensive and enforceable world trade rules. The agreement was formally signed in April 1994, and passed by the U.S. Congress in December that year. It led to the birth of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on January 1, 1995, with GATT remaining as the underlying framework of the WTO agreements. 
  • December 14, 1960: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Convention is signed by the US, Canada, and European nations, replacing the old Organization for European Economic Cooperation. The OECD is a high-level forum which considers a broad range of topics to help governments foster prosperity and fight poverty through economic growth and financial stability, and ensures that environmental implications are considered. Now with 34 member countries worldwide, the OECD meets regularly to identify and analyze problems, then promote policies to address them. Today, the NFTC is heavily engaged with the OECD Base Erosion/Profit Shifting (BEPS) project to ensure fair and objectively administrable outcomes and to avoid unintended adverse tax consequences for multinational corporations.
  • December 11, 2001: China becomes a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), leading to a deeper integration of China into the world economy and a seismic shift in global trading patterns. The admission of China to the WTO was preceded by a lengthy process of negotiations, notably the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) by the U.S. Congress in 2000, and also required significant market-oriented changes to the Chinese economy.
  • December 3, 2014: The NFTC will celebrate its 100th World Trade Dinner in Washington, DC. The oldest and most prestigious dinner of its kind, the World Trade Dinner gathers hundreds of dignitaries from embassies, the government and business to honor individuals for lifetime achievement in opening trade, markets and investment opportunities for U.S. businesses. The keynote address is the highlight of the event, usually delivered by a head of state, cabinet official, member of Congress or other luminary. The 100th World Trade Dinner is SOLD OUT.
  • November 22, 1963: U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated six months before the opening of the sixth session of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) trade negotiations, which were then named in his honor. The Kennedy Round talks were held between 1964 and 1967 in Geneva, Switzerland.

    Participation greatly increased over previous rounds – 66 nations in all, representing 80 percent of world trade. Despite disagreements over details, the final agreement was signed on June 30, 1967 – the very last day permitted under the 1962 Trade Expansion Act. Achievements of the Kennedy Round include tariff cuts averaging 34 percent, a new antidumping code and a "Trade and Development" section added to the GATT charter.
  • November 21, 2011: Following 2010 congressional passage of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), the United States imposed a new round of sanctions against Iran, targeting the country's financial and petrochemical sectors. USA*Engage advocated successfully for the removal of global extraterritorial provisions from the final legislation.

  • November 9, 2004:  NFTC launches the U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Coalition to expand free trade between and among the United States and Middle Eastern nations, and to encourage economic development, transparent and accountable governance, and enhanced economic prospects for the people of the Middle East region. Although the ultimate goal of a Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) went unrealized, today the NFTC still is recognized as the leader in Mideast regional trade issues.
  • November 3, 1961: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was created as the U.S. federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. It operates in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
  • October 31, 1962: The NFTC became the first recipient of the President's "E" Award for excellence in service to the export community. Then Secretary of Commerce Luther Hodges remarked that the NFTC "has worked assiduously for nearly a half century to educate American business and the public on the importance of overseas trade … for the economic growth and prosperity of the United States."

    Fifty-two years later, on May 28, 2014, on the occasion of its Centennial birthday, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker presented the NFTC with the "E Star" Award for its continued excellence in opening markets and supporting U.S. exporters. She remarked to NFTC President Reinsch, "Next time don't wait fifty years!"
  • October 29, 1929: Wall Street crashed, triggering the global Great Depression. The decline in the value of assets greatly strained banks and other financial institutions. Nearly all nations responded by seeking to protect their domestic production by imposing and raising tariffs, setting quotas on foreign imports and other measures. The cumulative effect of these restrictions decimated international trade, which took generations to recover to pre-crash levels.
  • October 11, 1962: President Kennedy signs the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, creating the office of the Special Trade Representative (USTR). Under the same act, the President was granted unprecedented authority to negotiate tariff reductions of up to 50%. The act also paved the way for the next round of GATT negotiations, which came to be known as the Kennedy Round.
  • October 3, 1994: South African President Nelson Mandela spoke at the NFTC World Trade Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York during his first-ever tour of the United States. His appearance and speech celebrated the end of apartheid and reestablishment of full commercial relations with the United States, a position advocated for years by NFTC and the U.S.-South Africa Business Council it founded and chaired.
  • September 25, 1986:  The Uruguay Round of GATT talks is launched in Punta del Este, Uruguay, with the goals of reducing agricultural subsidies, reducing investment restrictions, and opening trade in services. The Round culminated with the signing of the Marrakesh agreement in April 1994. The round yielded modest success in these 3 areas, but its greatest impact went far beyond its initial goals and transformed world trade. It created the World Trade Organization, which superseded the GATT as the international authority of the world trading system. GATT law remains the underpinning of the WTO legal framework.
  • September 22, 1985: In the Plaza Accord, finance ministers and central bankers of the G-5 agreed to push down the U.S. dollar's value in an effort to stimulate exports of U.S. goods and services. The justification for the dollar's depreciation was twofold: to reduce the U.S. current account deficit and to help the U.S. economy to emerge from a serious recession that began in the early 1980s. These goals were largely met, with some notable exceptions. The Plaza Accord (named for the New York hotel where it was signed) was significant in that it reflected Japan's emergence as a real player in the international monetary system.
  • September 12, 1973: The Tokyo Round of GATT talks was launched with the dual aims of reducing tariffs and controlling the proliferation of non-tariff barriers and voluntary export restrictions. The round was completed in December 1979 having achieved massive tariff reductions totaling more than $300 billion.
  • September 8, 1916: The U.S. Tariff Commission was established to research and mitigate the administrative, fiscal and industrial effects of U.S. customs laws. The Commission was a significant innovation in the regulation of U.S. tariff policy.
  • September 1, 1985: The United States-Israel Free Trade Agreement was implemented. It was the first free trade agreement entered into by the United States.
  • August 23, 1988: The Omnibus Foreign Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, four years in the making, was signed into law by President Reagan. Among other provisions the Omnibus Act renewed Fast Track Authority and Super 301. The NFTC, on behalf of its member companies, recommended several items ultimately included in the final bill, including enhanced market access for U.S. industry, maximum flexibility for the president in GATT negotiations and increased protection for intellectual property.
  • August 15, 1914: The opening of the Panama Canal, thus beginning an irreversible rearrangement of global commerce, enabling faster transportation of goods and lower shipping costs. A systematic U.S. policy to encourage foreign trade became needed, as well as a body to educate the public and businesses about trade and study ways to improve trade conditions. The U.S. government's call for a group to examine these kinds of problems eventually became the NFTC.

  • August 14, 1941: The Atlantic Charter policy statement was issued, defining the Allied goals for the post-war world. The United States and Great Britain pledged "to further the enjoyment by all States … on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity."
  • August 5, 2004: The United States signs the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) eliminating most trade barriers between the United States and Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

  • July 28, 2004: The House approved the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement by the paper-thin margin of two votes, 217 to 215. The agreement was signed into law by President George W. Bush on August 2, 2005. The parties to this regional trade agreement with the United States are the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.
  • July 22, 1944: The Bretton Woods Conference was held in New Hampshire to regulate international monetary exchange and capital flows after World War II. A system of pegged foreign exchange rates was established, monitored by the International Monetary Fund. The architecture of the World Bank was also created. NFTC board members Eugene Thomas of U.S. Steel and John Abbink of McGraw-Hill International were involved in the conference talks.

  • July 11, 2013: Panama's National Assembly ratifies the Panama–United States Free Trade Agreement. This bilateral free trade agreement gives U.S. firms greater access to one of Latin America's fastest growing economies by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers. Panama's location makes it the ideal logistics hub and transshipment point for goods and services flowing east-west through the Canal and north-south between the Americas.
  • July 8, 2013 - Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks launched between the European Union and the United States. The agreement aims to remove trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors and tackling barriers behind the customs border – such as differences in technical regulations and standards, and easing investment barriers
  • July 4, 1776: Signing of the Declaration of Independence. Partly in reaction against the British colonial economic system, which exploited colonies for the benefit of the mother country by restricting trade, limiting manufacturing and levying heavy taxes and fines. By tying together the 13 colonies into a unified market, the Declaration was the first step in establishing arguably the world's first free trade zone – the United States of America.
  • June 17, 1930: The U.S. Congress enacted the Tariff Act of 1930 (the Smoot-Hawley Act), raising tariff rates to record levels. The NFTC advocated strongly against the Act, decrying it as protectionist legislation. This position was proven prescient as the United States and the world slipped deeper into the Depression.
  • June 12, 1934:   The U.S. Congress enacts the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, granting the President authority to negotiate and approve tariff-cutting agreements and bilateral trade agreements. The NFTC supported the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act because it gave the President a mechanism to mitigate some of the damage of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act by jump starting the US and global economies mired in the Great Depression. Driven by the Depression, this Act represented an historic shift in U.S. trade policy away from high tariffs and towards more global engagement.
  • June 5, 1947: The Marshall Plan was established, which brought much-needed American funding and know-how to rebuild the economies of Europe after WWII. After some early misfires, the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) was established to administer the recovery efforts. NFTC members and staff provided critical industry guidance, both formally and informally, to guide the ECA on the best allocation of limited resources toward 'bang-for-buck' infrastructure investments in ports, transportation, energy, heavy industry, and so on. Taking the long view, NFTC members supported the ECA philosophy that sourcing materials and services from European firms, as opposed to American ones, was critical to jump-starting the European economy.
  • June 1, 1998: The European Central Bank was established to administer the monetary policy of the 17 Eurozone member states. It makes up one of the largest currency areas in the world and is thus one of the world's most important central banks.
  • May 27-28,1914: Under the auspices of President Woodrow Wilson, U.S. Secretary of Commerce William Redfield and leaders of business and industry convened the first National Foreign Trade Convention in Washington, DC, to generate public dialogue and interest in exporting, plan ways to expand America's export capacity, and recommend government policies beneficial to the promotion of trade and the growth of the American economy.
  • By unanimous vote at the conclusion of the convention 100 years ago, delegates voted to establish the NFTC as a standing body of trade experts to educate the public and businesses about trade, and to coordinate the policies and trade activities of the U.S. government.
  • 2007: Congress and the Bush Administration reached the historic "May 10th Agreement," a bipartisan agreement that enabled the free trade agreement (FTA) with Peru to go forward and created a template for subsequent FTAs with South Korea, Panama and Colombia in areas that had been hotly debated, including labor, the environment and some intellectual property issues. The May 10 language has since become the standard basis for other negotiations, as well as bipartisan work on new Trade Promotion Authority.
  • May 4, 1964: The Kennedy Round of GATT talks is launched to increase the number of goods at zero-tariff, lower remaining tariffs, and pass bilateral treaties preventing double taxation of foreign income. The US desire for an expansionist, liberal global trading regime was actively supported by the NFTC, whose mission then and now promotes open, rules-based trade worldwide. The round was named after American President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated just prior to the opening of the negotiations, and who believed in the power of strong commercial ties to foster a lasting global peace.
  • May 1950: The Schuman Declaration proposed the European Coal and Steel Community. The immediate goal was for France, Italy, West Germany, and the Benelux countries to share strategic resources, with the long term goal of making war between member states impossible. Its adoption marked the true beginning of today's European Union, and is marked by celebrations of 'Europe Day'.
  • April 22, 1985: The Israel Free Trade Agreement (FTA) became the first bilateral U.S. FTA. The NFTC joined in with U.S. business efforts to support this landmark agreement.
  • April 16, 1997: NFTC launched the USA*Engage to promote the benefits of U.S. engagement abroad and educate the public and policymakers about the ineffectiveness of unilateral economic foreign policy sanctions.
  • April 3, 1948: President Harry S. Truman signs the Marshall Plan, authorizing $5 billion in aid for 16 countries. The Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) oversaw the recovery efforts. The NFTC and its member companies provided critical industry guidance, both formally and informally, to the ECA on the best allocation of limited resources toward 'bang-for-buck' infrastructure investments in ports, transportation, energy, heavy industry, and so on. Taking the long view, NFTC members supported the ECA philosophy that sourcing materials and services from European firms, as opposed to American ones, was critical to jump-starting the European economy.
  • March 28, 1986:  The first National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers is released by USTR. The annual NTE Report surveys significant foreign barriers to U.S. exports worldwide, and provides quantitative estimates of the adverse impact these barriers have on the value and volume of U.S. exports. The 2014 NTE Report is due the first week of April. The 2013 NTE Report is available here:
  • March 22, 2000: The NFTC wins a landmark victory in the Supreme Court in Crosby v. NFTC, which held that Massachusetts's procurement ban on companies doing business in Burma was unconstitutional.
  • March 15, 2008: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks launch which have grown to include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • March 9, 1934: The Roosevelt Administration created a second Export-Import Bank to aid in financing U.S. exports, facilitating economic growth and job creation. The first and second Export-Import Banks were combined in 1936, and Congress made it an independent agency in 1945. The Export-Import Bank is a self-sustaining agency, and has returned over $1.9 billion to the U.S. Treasury over the past five years.
  • March 1, 2006: El Salvador became the first nation to implement the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). This multilateral FTA with five Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) and the Dominican Republic was the first such agreement between the United States and a group of smaller developing economies. The region covered by DR-CAFTA is the second-largest Latin American export market for U.S. producers, behind only Mexico. Two-way trade in goods now exceeds U.S. $59 billion annually, up from $34 billion in 2005, and the balance of trade in goods has dropped by half to $600 million during the same time frame.
  • February 29,1932: The British Parliament passed the Import Duties Act of 1932 in response to beggar-thy-neighbor trade policies, such as the U.S. Smoot-Hawley Act and similar European actions of the era. It placed a 10 percent tariff on imports, but gave preferential treatment to goods from within the Empire. This abandonment of 72 years of British free trade heightened the global effects of the Great Depression, leading U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt to seek mutual tariff reductions through the Reciprocal Trade Act of 1934.
  • February 13, 2013: U.S. President Barack Obama, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced the start of EU-U.S. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, to deepen trans-Atlantic trade and investment, and increase regulatory harmonization.
  • February 9, 2012:  China's balance of trade reached a record low of $31.5 billion, its largest trade deficit since 1989 (Source: Bloomberg News). Weaker-than-expected exports reflected the underlying weakness of the global economy, particularly in Europe. The good news from the standpoint of other nations, however, is that imports grew rather strongly, as China's ascendant middle class continued to increase demand for consumer goods from abroad. Also impacting the monthly data is the lunar (Chinese) new year, which occurred in January in 2012 (instead of in February, as in most years).
  • February 7, 1962:  The United States extended the trade embargo of Cuba to include virtually all imports and exports. The U.S. trade embargo of Cuba represents one area where the NFTC's position has evolved over time. The NFTC supported sanctions against Cuba when they were imposed in the early 1960s because many of its members had property and investments totaling in the millions of dollars that were seized by the Castro regime. That position evolved over the intervening half-century. Today, through its USA*Engage coalition, the NFTC actively calls for the end of the Cuba embargo, reflecting changes in the concerns of its current membership. The Council focuses attention on the facts that the embargo has been counterproductive, shutting out Americans while Europeans and Canadians dominate a market 90 miles from our shores; that Cuba is no longer seen as a national security threat to the United States; and that engagement can promote better foreign and economic outcomes.
  • January 30, 2009:  The NFTC launched the Global Innovation Forum (GIF) to explore the impact of U.S. policies on the ability of American businesses, entrepreneurs and universities to innovate and compete in the global marketplace. The GIF brings together a spectrum of stakeholders to develop feasible solutions to global challenges through effective enforcement of intellectual property rights worldwide. Since 2009, the GIF has held forums across the country, bringing together policymakers, entrepreneurs and academics to explore these themes and make sound policy prescriptions.

  • January 19, 1971:  Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. government's development finance institution, begins operations. OPIC mobilizes private capital to help solve critical development challenges in emerging economies. Because OPIC works with the private sector, it helps U.S. businesses gain footholds in emerging markets, catalyzing revenue, jobs and growth opportunities both at home and abroad. OPIC achieves its mission by providing investors with project financing, guarantees, political risk insurance and support for private equity investment funds. The NFTC was, and remains, an active supporter for the creation and reauthorization of private development finance corporations like OPIC.
  • January 8, 1914:  President Woodrow Wilson issued his Fourteen Points in a speech to Congress, including "Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas... alike in peace and in war," and "The removal, so far as possible of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance" (Points Number II and III). Among the warring nations, the United States was the most transparent about its post-War goals, with free trade among its highest priorities. The NFTC was born 100 years ago under the auspices of President Wilson, with open, rules-based trade as its guiding philosophy, and has remained true to it ever since.
  • January 3, 1975:  President Nixon signs the Trade Act of 1974. In it, Congress passed the first version of Trade Promotion Authority (known as 'Fast Track'), giving confidence to our trading partners that an agreement negotiated with the Executive would come before Congress for final approval. Via TPA, Congress clarifies negotiating authority for the Executive; grants the Executive the authority to negotiate trade agreements, provided the Executive consults with the Congress during negotiations; and subjects the final agreement to a simple up/down vote with no amendments or filibuster. Today, the Executive is once again seeking TPA in order to bring the TPP and TTIP trade negotiations to successful conclusion and, ultimately, Congressional passage. See for more details on why we need TPA.