The Attlee government, the imperial preference system and the creation of the GATT
University of Exeter
English Historical Review
Oxford University Press
This article provides the first systematic account of the Attlee government's role in the 1947 Geneva negotiations that led to the signature of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It shows how, in spite of significant problems along the way, the outcome of the negotiations represented a success for Britain, which, to a striking degree, withstood pressure to fall in with American views on trade. Not only did ministers secure important concessions over the timing of the implementation of the GATT's freer trade rules, but they also successfully defended the imperial preference system against attack, even in the face of US threats that, if they did not act to eliminate preferences, Marshall Aid would be withheld from the UK. The article argues that this outcome was explicable in large part by the problems inherent in the seemingly powerful device of attaching policy conditions to large-scale foreign aid. It further suggests that the episode yields important lessons about the methods by which Britain, in her weakened postwar condition, resisted, to a significant degree successfully, US attempts at hegemonic imposition.
This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in The English Historical Review following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version (Vol.118 (478), Sept. 2003 pp. 912-939) is available online at: http://ehr.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/118/478/912
118 (478) pp. 912-939