1930: Smoot-Hawley Tariffs — President Herbert Hoover, who pledged during the 1928 presidential election to help beleaguered U.S. farmers by raising tariffs on agricultural imports, signed into law the Tariff Act of 1930, more commonly known as the Smoot-Hawley tariff. The legislation authorized the president to raise or lower a certain tariff rate by as much as 50 percent and established the highest level of tariffs in U.S. history.
1948: GATT — After World War II, many countries, including the U.S., made a commitment to trade liberalization and lowering trade barriers to foster peace and economic growth around the world. In 1947, 23 nations signed a comprehensive trade accord, known as the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade, which established global rules for trade and kicked off several rounds of tariff reductions among the countries.
1967: Kennedy Round — 62 countries agreed to make across-the-board tariff cuts rather than product-specific tariff reductions.
1979: Tokyo Round — 102 countries agreed to lower nontariff barriers and make further tariff cuts on manufactured goods.
1985: U.S. implements its first free trade agreement, with Israel. It was negotiated and signed by President Ronald Reagan.
1989: U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement implemented. It was negotiated and signed by President Ronald Reagan.
1994-1995: Uruguay Round of trade talks completed and 123 countries agreed to create the World Trade Organization and replace the GATT treaty. The round resulted in reducing tariffs on manufactured goods and extended rules to agricultural products. It also started a 10-year phaseout of all apparel and textile quotas and opened foreign investment and extended international law to the services sector. President Bill Clinton inherited the Uruguay Round from President George H.W. Bush, whose administration was responsible for negotiating it for the U.S. and signed it into law. It was implemented in 1995.
1994: North American Free Trade Agreement implemented. NAFTA opened trade between Mexico, Canada and the U.S. The trade pact was largely negotiated under the Bush administration but signed into law by Clinton.
2001: U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement implemented. President Clinton negotiated and signed the trade deal.
2004: The U.S.-Singapore and U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreements. President George W. Bush negotiated and signed both trade pacts.
2005: U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement implemented under the Bush administration.
2006: The U.S.-Morocco and U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreements implemented under the Bush administration. The Central American Free Trade Agreement was implemented with four of the six signatory countries. The Dominican Republic was the fifth country to enter to ratify the pact in 2007. Costa Rica has not yet ratified CAFTA. The U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement was approved by Congress, but has not been implemented.
2007: The U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement was approved by Congress, but has not been implemented.
Note: The U.S. has three trade preference programs that essentially give duty free preferences to developing countries but do not provide reciprocal access to U.S. exports. They are with the four Andean countries, the Caribbean nations and sub-Saharan African countries.
Sources: U.S. State Department, World Trade Organization, the Business Roundtable