Free trade lies at the heart of the new era of globalization. This is a review of the history of 20th-century trade agreements, tracing what happened to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) before the USA pushed the world into the Uruguay Round. This renegotiation of the rules of international trade, enshrined in the World Trade Organisation agreements, is now taking free trade much further than ever before. The author examines the benefits and hidden costs of the WTO Agreements, their implications for weaker economies and their likely consequences in terms of environmental protection, labour standards and political sovereignty. Alternatives do exist, he argues, to an over-reliance on free trade. These include managed trade, fair trade and self-reliant trade. He also sets out a series of innovative proposals for reforming the WTO, IMF and World Bank.
Dr Graham Dunkley is a senior lecturer in economics in the Faculty of Business, Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.