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What Happens to Truth

July 1, 1983 -

Jeffrey J. Schott reviews the accomplishments and ramifications of last November's GATT meeting in Geneva in the May/June issue of Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs. He finds that this meeting, which could and should have established important guidelines for the improvement of international trade, diplomatically waffled its way around difficult decisions. Each country attempted to protect its own interest, disguising its activities and intentions with carefully phrased generalities. Schott believes that the November 1982 meeting will have a negative effect upon the work of GATT during the current year. He foresees a year of turmoil for world trade. As unemployment in the United States and Europe soars past the 30 million mark, governments will be under tremendous pressure to sanction protectionist measures. Schott fears that new trade restrictions will proliferate as a result in "blatant disregard of GATT obligations." Mr. Schott concludes:

Ministers left Geneva with a sense of accomplishment in the face of very trying circumstances, but those from the major trading countries also left with a strong sense of frustration and a feeling that trade problems need to be dealt with in a more pragmatic fashion and on a bilateral basis. In particular, the failure of the major trading nations to take the politically difficult steps to renounce protectionist policies was an especially telling blow to the GATT as an institution. As such, the Ministerial”for all its rhetoric about free trade principles and strengthening the GATT—dealt a heavy blow to multilateral discipline over trade, and thus contributed to the further erosion of confidence in the GATT. (p. 45)