The United States and the GATT/WTO System

Gautam Sen

in US Hegemony and International Organizations

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780199261437
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599309 | DOI:
 The United States and the GATT/WTO System

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An examination is made of the relationship between the US and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and its successor, the World Trade Organization, addressing the crucial question of the likelihood that the US will exit, or through its behaviour undermine, the multilateral trade organization in favour of regional or bilateral alternatives. It is concluded that the probability of a US‐inspired weakening of the WTO is low, although the incentives for protectionism in the US are strong and growing as a result of globalization and the changing international division of labour. The US domestic political system gives voice to such protectionist interests in international trade policy through a set of administrative and legal remedies that are reinforced by principles such as reciprocity and ‘fair trade’. Countervailing factors to this situation include the growing power of US export interests, the effectiveness of the Executive in deflecting the protectionist tendencies in the US Congress, and the exceptional power and influence of the US over the multilateral regime, in which it is a rule maker rather than a rule taker, enjoying the power to bend the rules selectively to serve its interests. As such, the WTO tends to reflect and reinforce US economic interests, and the US is, therefore, likely to continue in overall terms its efforts to comply with and generally strengthen the multilateral organization, rather than to break away from it.

Keywords: GATT; General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; global organizations; influence; international trade policy; multilateral organizations; multilateral trade organizations; power; protectionism; trade organizations; US; US domestic politics; US relations with the WTO; US trade policy; World Trade Organization

Chapter.  11719 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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