In This Review

Free Trade, Free World: The Advent of GATT
Free Trade, Free World: The Advent of GATT
By Thomas W. Zeiler
University of North Carolina Press, 1999, 267 pp

Since the future agenda for world trade seems unmoored after the failure of the World Trade Organization's Seattle conference, now is a good time to reflect on the origins of the postwar free-trade regime, especially the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Zeiler has written an excellent, timely book on how GATT was created in the 1940s and makes two outstanding points. First, he argues, GATT was designed to allow for a good deal of economic nationalism; its flexibility made it resilient, and the incremental progress was steady. Second, GATT was nurtured and sustained by the Cold War. Economic rivalries were not completely submerged, but they were sublimated by a sense of solidarity against a common foe that served as an opposing paradigm for the economic organization of societies and nations. With that purpose now gone, Seattle may be a harbinger of the changes in store -- unless the case for a rejuvenated world trading system can be made.