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From Bretton Woods to the WTO

The world's trade organization must withstand much criticism. But what is the WTO?


Before World War II, there was no organization or agreement that provided rules and cooperation arrangements for international economics and trade. There were a large number of bilateral agreements, and the individual countries' authorities could themselves introduce measures they deemed necessary to safeguard their financial interests. This was often used to protect the country's own production against competition from outside – in the form of import-restrictive measures, ongoing write-downs of currencies and the like. Very short-term considerations for individual industries were often the basis. The result was a vicious circle that most people lost, with economic downturns and mass unemployment as a result.

These experiences led to a number of countries meeting in 1944 in Bretton Woods in New Hampshire in the USA – the so-called Bretton Woods negotiations – which aimed to establish rules of the game for both trade and economic policy. The negotiations led, among other things, to the establishment of the World Bank and the International. . .

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