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INTERNATIONAL ORANIZATIONS AND FREE TRADE
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an international organizationset up in 1947, had the objectives of encouraging free trade, of making tariffs the only form of protectionism, and of reducing these as much as possible. One of the clauses of the GATT agreementspecified that countries could nothave favoured trading partners, but had to grant equally favourable conditionsto all trading partners. The final GATT agreement was signed in Marrakech in 1994, and the organization was superseded by the World Trade Organization.
It took nearly 50 years to arrive at the final GATT agreement, because until the 1980s, most developing countries opposed free trade. They practised import substitution (producing and protecting goods that cost more than those made abroad), and imposed high tariff barriers to protect their infant industries.
Nowadays, however, many developing countries have huge debts with Western commercial banks on which they are unable to pay the interest, let alone repay the principal. Thus they need to renew the loans, to reschedule or postpone repayments, or to borrow further money from the International Monetary Fund, often just to pay the interest on existing loans. Under these circumstances, the IMF imposes sever conditions, usually including the obligation to export as much as possible.
Quite apart from IMF pressure, Third World governments are aware of the export successes of the East Asian ‘Tiger’ economies (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan), and of the collapse of the Soviet economic model. They were afraid of being excluded from the world trading system by the development of trading blocks such as the European Union, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), both signed in the early 1990s. So they tended to liberalize their economies, lowering trade barriers and opening up to international trade.
1. What is GATT?
2. When was the final GATT agreement signed?
3. What was the organization superseded by?
4. Why did it take nearly 50 years to arrive at the final GATT agreement?
5. What is import substitution?
6. Why did most developing countries impose high tariff barriers?
7. Why does the IMF impose severe conditions on many developing countries nowadays?
8. What countries belong to the East Asian ‘Tiger’ economies?
Ø Text organization:
The Nationalments below express the main ideas of the text. Number them so that they are in the same order as the ideas in the text. The first one is given for you:
Are there any ‘infant’ industries in our country that the Government has to protect?
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