The impact of foreign-trade zones in the United States

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jesse M. Lane (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Corey Johnson

Abstract: Established in 1934 to increase exports and promote economic growth, foreign-trade zones have expanded across the U.S. and have become an integral part of local economic policy. A progenitor to modern place-based economic policy, the foreign-trade zone reflects modern neoliberalism and capitalism: free-market principles applied on a limited spatial scale and offered to a small number of firms. While the zone program occurs in every state in the U.S. and is inextricably tied to space, few geographers have analyzed its impact on historical and spatial development patterns. Using a mixed methods approach, this dissertation critically evaluates the historical and spatial evolution of the zone program, statistically analyzes the impact of foreign trade zones on spatial and temporal economic growth patterns, and analyzes the economic and external impacts of Foreign-Trade Zone No. 82 on local development in Mobile, Alabama. Since it was first proposed in 1894, the foreign-trade zone program has been used as a tool by corporate actors to consolidate control over trade in the U.S. Through the use of information management, propaganda, and control over elected officials and bureaucrats, several prominent robber barons and corporate consortiums were able to create a place-based mechanism to increase profits and market control. Statistical evidence suggests foreign-trade zones have impacted spatially uneven development patterns and negatively affected the periphery in the process. Interview and observational data in Mobile suggest the zone program has largely benefited big business at the expense of small businesses, neighboring minority communities, and local ecology.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2022
Economic geography, Foreign-trade zones, Free zones, Place-based neoliberalism, Spatial Inequality, Uneven Development
Free ports and zones $z United States
Regional economic disparities
Economic geography
Space in economics

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