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World Trade Report 2007

Six Decades of Multilateral Trade Cooperation: What Have We Learnt?

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On 1 January 2008 the multilateral trading system will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary. The World Trade Report 2007 marks the occasion with a retrospective look at what we have learned from those six decades of international trade cooperation. In asking what we have learned, the report reviews a rich history of change and institutional adaptation. It attempts to identify both what lessons are to be drawn from past experience and the nature of challenges to come. The World Trade Report is useful for policymakers and for any individuals or groups interested in global trade policy.

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Executive summary

On 1 January 2008 the multilateral trading system will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary. The World Trade Report 2007 marks the occasion with a retrospective look at what we have learned from those six decades of international trade cooperation. In asking this question, the report reviews a rich history of change and institutional adaptation. It attempts to identify both what lessons are to be drawn from past experience and the nature of challenges to come. This is an ambitious undertaking, and we have divided the Chapter into three main sections. The first major Section (Section B) begins with a very brief historical review of what the trade policy world looked like in the century and a half before the birth of the GATT. The rest of this Section takes a step back from events to consider what the theoretical literature might teach us about why nations choose to cooperate with one another in trade matters. This is an eclectic review that draws on perspectives from economics, political economy, political science and international relations literature, as well as legal analysis. We seek to show that despite differences in their methodological approach, these different conceptual frameworks display some interesting features in common. They also offer a variety of different insights about what might drive cooperation.

English Spanish, French

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