This paper applies an endogenous institutionalist framework to understand the evolution of the rules-based international trading system since the end of World War II. We argue that the initial success of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs and re-enforcement that led to the formation of the WTO can be explained by three major factors: the hegemonic position of the US, the belief that international trade would foster prosperity and peace, and Cold War politics. However, declining US hegemony along with a shift in global comparative advantage in labor-intensive manufacturing led to a shift from multilateral towards preferential trade agreements since the 1990s. Today, the WTO faces several new challenges, including increasing geo-political competition between the US and China, increasing digitization of commerce, and disrupted supply chains following COVID-19. A functioning WTO that facilitates global economic re-integration remains crucial to ensure a strong recovery from the pandemic and continued long-term prosperity and stability of the global economy.
|Journal||China and World Economy|
|Publication status||Published - 2023|