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Multilateralism Is Still Better

Multilateral rules based on the principle of free trade still represent the best approach to managing international flows of most commodities and achieving broadly shared prosperity. New wars and geopolitical ruptures do not change that fact; if anything, they confirm it.

WASHINGTON, DC – The great statesmanship and leadership that the United States showed during and after World War II is well known. America was the world’s preeminent political, economic, and military power, and instead of using its position to penalize the losers and demand reparations, it helped plan and found multilateral global-governance institutions that would give all countries a seat at the table.

Under this new international order, postwar reconstruction and economic development was to be financed through the World Bank, while the international trading system was to be underpinned by the rule of law through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and its successor, the World Trade Organization. The International Monetary Fund was charged with ensuring global financial stability, and organizations such as the United Nations and NATO offered frameworks for addressing geopolitical tensions.

This rules-based world maintained peace and boosted prosperity. There were no more worldwide armed conflicts, and, thanks to open markets and the global trading system, many poor countries succeeded in vastly improving their people’s living standards. Meanwhile, most advanced economies achieved marked improvements in terms of health, life expectancy, education, and poverty reduction.

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