The notion of trade has always been central to the overall patterns of socio-political development and international relations. Indeed, the exchange of commodities may be perceived as a major contributor to the development of pragmatic collaboration within the states and the international well-being. In order to analyze the trade’s position in today’s political environment, it is necessary to look from a diachronic perspective at the means and institutions of trade regulation.
Firstly, it should be outlined that the idea of trade preceded the modern perception of states and borders. Encouraged by the idea of finding the best ways to produce and transport goods, leaders had always been willing to settle for territories with coastlines and connections to other continents. Hence, at times of trade genesis, a number of powerful states decided to establish the patterns of commodity exchange, according to which they would maximize the export rates and minimize the number of imported goods. Such a phenomenon, known as mercantilism, was relatively common before the 19th century, as state leaders at the time decided it was unhealthy to suppress the economic capabilities of other countries for military advantage. As a result, the world economy’s focus shifted to the balance of trade – the process where the expense aimed at acquiring imported goods was compensated with the export profits. Moreover, the notion of monopoly on a certain industry was frowned upon in the international community.
Secondly, when considering the trade context of the 20th century, in order to systematize that trade pattern, the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was presented in 1944. Although the regulation seemed like an appropriate response to given circumstances, many economies were willing to protect themselves from international cooperation and led rather protectionist trade politics. On the one hand, protectionism is beneficial for the state, as it provides tremendous support for the local producers and industry development in general. Moreover, it is generally believed that a state’s ability to sustain national needs is crucial in terms of self-sufficiency and military preparedness. However, on the other hand, when the local industry has no competition from outside, it eventually dies and loses its relevance, as there is no need to grow and innovate the production.
Finally, in order to overcome the challenges of modern trade and find common ground between such extreme concepts as free trade and protectionism, the World Trade Organization was established in 1995. The institution’s primary mission is to regulate the patterns of international trade to promote equity and economic prosperity among nations. The most beneficial credential of the organization is the ability to review state legislation and policies on the matter of economic isolation and market monopolization. Nowadays, some states tend to introduce legislation aimed at limiting their import options and develop solely internal trade peculiarities. Thus, the WTO’s competence levels allow the organization to reject such initiatives for the sake of fair and free trade and support the states that are put at a disadvantage in terms of manufacturing or geographics.
Having taken the aforementioned options into consideration, it may be concluded that today’s definition of trade goes far beyond the regularities of commodity exchange, as it reflects the global patterns of international relationships. Thus, in order to ensure strategic advantages in other political fields, many states use trade as a way to find common ground for negotiation and partnership. In such a scenario, organizations like WTO make sure that the foundation of this negotiation is built on the principles of fair play and mutual respect.