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date: 23 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the role of international politics in the creation and operation of the GATT/WTO. More specifically, it asks whether political-military alliances influenced international trade expansion after World War II. Allies have especially strong interests in trading with each other and relatively weak concerns about cheating. This biases them toward raising their trade with each other despite the explicit prohibition against discrimination in the GATT/WTO charter. Using data on trade flows between 1946 and 2003, I show that alliances do exert a positive impact on the trade of contracting parties, effectively embedding discrimination in the postwar regime. Because international politics prompted de facto trade discrimination across its members, the GATT/WTO represented less of a clean break from the interwar system than is often assumed.

Keywords: international politics, international trade, alliances, trade discrimination, GATT/WTO

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