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Conflict, Chaos and Confusion

Conflict, Chaos and Confusion

The Crisis in the International Trading System

William A. Kerr

After 15 years the WTO is not functioning as envisioned and is faced with many new trade challenges − climate change, terrorism, pandemics, genetically modified organisms, food safety − which it is ill-equipped to handle. Conflict, Chaos and Confusion sheds light on this deep and acute crisis, focusing on contentious and complex new trade issues and how they will affect international trade in the future.

Chapter 4: A Club No More – The WTO after Doha

William A. Kerr

Subjects: economics and finance, international economics


When the GATT organization was first started … it was felt that the GATT was a club inhabited by diplomats of impeccable reputation who would ensure that its affairs would be conducted with all seemly propriety. Should any unhappy differences arise they would be settled privately according to the feeling of the general consensus. Journal of World Trade Law (Editorial), 1981 The impetus for the institutionalisation of international relations that was manifest in the latter part of the Second World War largely arose out of the efforts of a few countries – particularly the United States and the UK but also Canada and some other Dominions in the British Commonwealth.1 The grand design for the post-war world order was to establish institutions that would eliminate or dampen the sources of international military and/or economic conflict. These institutions included the United Nations (political conflict), the International Monetary Fund (strategic devaluations), the World Bank (income disparities) and the International Trade Organization (beggar-thy-neighbour trade wars). Of course, the International Trade Organization was stillborn and one of its sub-agreements, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) became the de facto multilateral trade institution. The world has changed radically in the half century since the GATT was signed on 30 October 1947. The original GATT had only 23 signatories. When the organisation came into being on 1 January 1948, there were only ten countries that had ratified the agreement. Of these, only Cuba and Haiti were what would be considered developing countries today. Of course, at...

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