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found in: social studies; 6-8; 9-12

Trade tariffs are not a new idea in the U.S. as evident in the timeline: Tariff Table (1789-1994). With tariffs, consumers pay more for certain foreign products and materials in order to support domestic industry. A 2010 article, 25 American Products That Rely On Huge Protective Tariffs To Survive,  lists American products protected from foreign competition with 20% on dairy to 350% on tobacco. Whether tariffs work has been debated since at least the Tariff of 1828, or the Tariff of Abominations, which benefited the North at the expense of the South and was a factor leading to the Civil War. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 stifled international trade, led to tariff reprisals from other nations, and worsened the Great Depression. The following lessons and resources will provide context for recent talk of tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Lesson Plans:

Limiting Trade (6-8) Students in grades 6-8 read about various types of trade restrictions and their effects, debate the imposition of a new tariff, evaluate arguments in favor of and against a tariff, and determine who will benefit and who will be hurt by a tariff. Standards listed.

Lesson 8: Trade and the Global Economy  Students in grades 9-12 examine the concept of globalization, evaluate the current status of US trade, and evaluate the argument that communities should become more self reliant and less dependent on imports.

Shrimp-onomics (PDF): The North Carolina shrimping industry is threatened by foreign competition. Students in grade 10 create a marketing campaign for North Carolina shrimpers. Standards are listed.

Free Trade Students in grades 9-12 explore the function of free markets. PowerPoint, worksheet, and simulation are provided. Standards are listed.

Protectionism Students in grades 9-12 explore the protectionism. PowerPoint, worksheet and bingo game are provided. Standards are listed.

The Free Trade Conundrum: Balancing Worker Wages and Consumer Prices: Comparing the 19th and 21st Centuries Students explore free trade and protectionism and compare 19th and 21st century arguments for and against a tariff.


The Truth About Trade in History A 1998 alternative perspective to protectionism.

The Tariff History of the United States (Part I)  Part I and II examine the early protective movement and the tariff of 1828.

Part II

Smoot-Hawley Tariff Summarizes the Hawley Smoot Tariff and its effects.


The Trading Game In this trading game, students learn that when voluntary trade takes place, both parties benefit.

The Candy Trading Game Students discover that the value of a good or service is subjective.

Classroom Tariff Wars: A Tariff Setting Game ( PDF, 745 KB, 11 pgs.) (11-12) Groups of students explore the consequences of import tariffs imposed by countries large enough to influence world prices. The game is built on a computable general equilibrium model.


The Hawley-Smoot Tariff in Under 5 Minutes - Hasty History (3:26)

The Legacy of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (2:52)

International Trade (28:42) Video, audio, and supplementary audio programs; transcripts, key terms, and a quiz. Covers free trade, protectionism, and tariffs.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Trade Protectionism Students explore the advantages and disadvantages of protectionism. Video (9:30) lesson and transcript included.


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