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The GATT's contribution to economic recovery in post-war Western Europe

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  • Douglas A. Irwin

Abstract

By freeing Europe's regional and international trade from tariffs and other trade barriers, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) has often been hailed as a key factor in promoting the post-war economic recovery in Western Europe and in preventing a return to the disaster of the interwar period. This paper describes and assesses the contribution of the GATT in supporting economic recovery in Western Europe in the decade after 1947. The formation of the GATT by itself does not appear to have stimulated a particularly rapid liberalization of world trade during this period. It is therefore difficult to attribute much of a role to the GATT in the dramatic economic recovery during the immediate post-war period beyond that of an effective supporting actor. The principal contribution of the GATT during its first decade of operation rests more in securing binding agreements on early tariff reductions, thereby preventing countries from instituting higher tariffs as import quotas and foreign exchange controls were being phased out during the 1950s under the auspices of other international institutions. Yet despite the GATT's weaknesses on several fronts, the institution succeeded in establishing among major countries a fairly credible commitment to an open and stable environment for world trade that fostered the post-war rise in trade and income.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas A. Irwin, 1993. "The GATT's contribution to economic recovery in post-war Western Europe," International Finance Discussion Papers 442, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:442
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Frederic Boyer & J. P. Sallé, 1955. "The Liberalization of Intra-European Trade in the Framework of OEEC," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 4(2), pages 179-216, February.
    2. de Melo, Jaime & Montenegro, Claudio & Panagariya, Arvind, 1992. "Regional integration, old and new," Policy Research Working Paper Series 985, The World Bank.
    3. Kitson,Michael & Solomou,Solomos, 2008. "Protectionism and Economic Revival," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521071789, October.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Silvia Nenci, 2009. "Tariff liberatization and the growth of word trade: A comparative historiocal analysis to evaluate the multilateral trading system," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0110, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
    2. Kyle Handley & Nuno Limão, 2015. "Trade and Investment under Policy Uncertainty: Theory and Firm Evidence," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 189-222, November.
    3. Frankel, Jeffrey & Stein, Ernesto & Wei, Shang-jin, 1995. "Trading blocs and the Americas: The natural, the unnatural, and the super-natural," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 61-95, June.
    4. Handley, Kyle, 2014. "Exporting under trade policy uncertainty: Theory and evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 50-66.
    5. Nenci, Silvia, 2005. "Liberalizzazione tariffaria e crescita degli scambi mondiali: un’analisi storica comparata per la valutazione del sistema commerciale multilaterale
      [Tariff Liberalisation and Trade Growth: a Compar
      ," MPRA Paper 645, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Ludger Lindlar, 1996. "Four Decades of German Export Expansion - an Enduring Success Story?," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 130, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    International trade ; Europe;

    JEL classification:

    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations

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