With globalization drawing countries closer together, greater international cooperation is essential for peace and stability. The collective arrangement made by governments to manage their trade relations is one of the few clear successes. Reluctant Partners traces the emergence of multilateral trade cooperation since the mid-nineteenth century, exploring the conflicting interests at work. It assesses the substantial progress made in successive postwar rounds of negotiations—especially the Kennedy, Tokyo, and Uruguay rounds—and shows how the narrow perception of reciprocity in the mutual reduction of trade barriers has gradually yielded to a broader evaluation of the ways in which countries benefit from the trade regime as a whole.
Andrew G. Brown demonstrates the increasing importance of rule making—the refinement and extension of common rules and procedures for the conduct of commercial relations—and outlines the diversity of issues on which negotiations have focused, such as customs procedures, technical standards, subsidies, antidumping duties, intellectual property rights, and the treatment of foreign direct investment. Despite the progress, however, the regime has remained vulnerable. Major sources of strain have been evident, including upsurges of protectionist sentiment linked to serious recessions, uneasy relations between the regime and the developing countries, rising interest in regional trading arrangements, and social concerns about conflicts between labor and environmental standards and the trade rules.
A nontechnical book for those curious about the possibilities for cooperation among states, Reluctant Partners should be of interest to both the nonspecialist and the specialist. It draws on more than one discipline to interpret the events lying in the triangle bounded by political science, economics, and history.