First published: March 1998
By Alan Freeman
Think of the world economy, and two household words come to mind: the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the two supranational bodies created by the Bretton Woods Treaty of 1947 when the allied powers constructed the post-war economic world order. It is less well-known that these two have been joined by another. The World Trade Organisation (WTO), formed in 1994 as a result of the 1986 ‘Uruguay Round’ of negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), has emerged as the third pillar of the post-war economic order. Although generally presented as a simple continuation of GATT, it has in fact inaugurated a fundamental change in the organisation of world trade.
The GATT has been transformed from an ineffectual chamber of commerce into a powerful device for restructuring the world market in the commercial and financial interests of the leading powers, the core requirement being to maintain the supremacy of the US economy in the face of the largest trade deficit in world history.