Developing multilateralism: the Havana charter and the fight for the International Trade Organization, 1947-1948
University of Exeter. At the time of publication the author was at Homerton College, Cambridge.
International History Review
Simon Fraser University
Since the World Trade Organization (WTO) was established, it has been the subject of vocal, and sometimes violent, international protests. Much of the criticism levelled at it has charged that the WTO régime puts developing countries at various kinds of unfair disadvantage. Yet concerns about international economic organisations’ treatment of poor nations long pre-dated the WTO. Early consideration of such issues had taken place during the negotiations, in the immediate post-WWII years, which aimed at establishing an International Trade Organization (ITO). This is striking because, although the attempt to create the ITO failed, it left a lasting legacy. Not only was the plan a precursor of the WTO, but the supposedly ‘interim’ General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), negotiated during 1947 in parallel with discussions on the proposed charter for the ITO, continued as the basis on which world trade was regulated, until superseded by the WTO in 1995. The GATT rules of 1947, as subsequently amended, were nested inside the Marrakesh Agreement of 1994 as part of that single agreement. Hence, the spirit of the GATT – and, to some degree, that of the ITO - lives on in the WTO.
XXV (2), pp. 282-305