New WTO members Afghanistan and Liberia are cheerleaders for other countries seeking WTO membership, including Iraq, Somalia and Timor-Leste. These countries are resolved to rebuild their post-conflict economies and believe that making commitments in the WTO will undergird necessary, but difficult, economic reforms at home.
In 1944, the global economy was in shambles. Forty-four nations gathered in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to discuss how to rebuild an economy devastated by protracted depression and two World Wars. From these discussions emerged a 1947 agreement on a lasting framework for post-war commercial relations whereby trade barriers were contained and then gradually reduced over time.
We often talk about “trade wars,” but in the era of a rules-based trading system the phrase typically refers to the use of tariffs or import restrictions to inflict economic harm. It was not always so. Before the GATT and its design for the peaceful settlement of commercial disputes, the use of military power in international economics was commonplace. Take the case of the fight over control of nutmeg production in the 1660s.
The North Korean regime continues to amass missile and nuclear technologies, through a combination of global licit and illicit transactions. North Korea trades for currency, for fuel, and for military materiel to preserve its power. Will expanded sanctions choke off revenue for weapons programs, or will continued trade ties with China throw North Korea a lifeline?
Around one-third of global shipping and about 21 percent of global trade moves through it the South China Sea. The Strait of Malacca, which connects the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean with the Indian Ocean, is the shortest and most economical passageway connecting these important bodies of water. Any long-term uncertainty around commercial use of the Strait of Malacca could create a ripple effect throughout existing global supply chains.
After autos and auto parts, energy commodities are the largest category of traded goods in North America. The energy industry in North America is both highly integrated and interdependent. As a region, we have achieved energy self-sufficiency and have become a global energy powerhouse because we trade with one another.
Since 1947, the global trade rules have contained a “national security exception.” WTO members operate on the presumption that their fellow members will exercise the exception rarely and in good faith.