Conflict, Chaos and Confusion
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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.
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Chapter 1: A New World Chaos? International Institutions in the Information Age

William A. Kerr


1. INTRODUCTION1 The title of this chapter was chosen for effect. Chaos is a word that brings forth strong emotions – fear, disgust, apprehension and, hopefully for a very few, elation. The history of international relations in the latter half of the twentieth century can be characterised as a search for order. It is interesting how often the term New World Order cropped up in the 50-odd years that followed the end of the Second World War. It was applied to the United Nations and the Bretton Woods system that was set up by the victors after the war. It was adopted by those hopeful of more equitable relations between developed and developing countries in the 1970s. It was a buzzword for the re-emergence of US hegemony at the end of the Cold War. Order is the opposite of, and the antidote to, chaos; it soothes the strong emotions created by the threat of chaos. 2. ORDER The search for order in the last century is not hard to understand. Politically, the First World War rent asunder the last vestiges of the system of diplomacy, based loosely on alliances among monarchies cemented by family ties and strategic marriages, that had developed with the nation-state in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There were rules, or more correctly, conventions of diplomatic behaviour understood by gentlemen that even republics such as the United States and France were willing to abide by, but no international organisations. The failure of that system to prevent a world...

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