In the aftermath of the Second World War, most of the European and East Asian economies were devastated and a need for reconstruction was imminent in order to reestablish an international economic cooperation. While one might think that this imperative was established by the the presence of functional international institutions, the United States hegemony explains best the international economiccooperation in the postwar era. With their economies severely damaged, the Western allies could only rely on the United States, whose power and wealth had actually grown during the Second World War. Thus, the predominance of the United States in the postwar era over the devastated European economies enabled the United States to shape a new global economic system that would benefit them.Furthermore, the United States held a central position in the international institutions that were set in place during the postwar era. Finally, the international economic rules established in the postwar were shaped by the United States’ political interests.
The Second World War economically benefited the United States. Indeed, the world’s most terrible war had been more destructive of Western economiesand societies than anyone had anticipated, whereas the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere baked in propsperity. The Continental Allies’s postwar GDPs, industrial productions, living standards and imports were at their lowest and in 1946, the American economy was larger than the economy of Europe, Japan and Soviet Union combined. Thus, the power and wealth of the United Stateshad tremendously increased at the expense of the Western nations’s one. Before any new international institution was set in place, the United States was already considered as the only nation economically capable of reestablishing an international economic cooperation. In other words, if an international institution were to be created in the postwar era, its efficiency solely depended on the UnitedStates who was the only nation at that time economically competent enough to maintain and support it. As early as 1940, Leon Fraser, president of New York’s First National Bank, already said: « As America goes, so goes the world, for our influence is so great, our strenght so dominant, that our policy, once clearly adopted and followed, is likely—nay, is certain—to be the guidepost for theremainder of the globe » , asserting that the United States were more than ready to assume their status of world leader even prior to the end of Second World War and clearly showing that the United States saw in the wartime in Europe an occasion to expand, if not impose, their economical ideology.
The United States intented to establish a long desired economic internationalism in the postwarinternational economic system through three major components : trade liberalization, international monetary stability, and the recovery of international investment. However, the establishment of a freer trade could not be done without the lowering of Great Britain’s trade barriers who was commited to its historical isolationist behavior in internationalist commerce. Therefore when Great Britain asked theUnited States to lend military equipment to its army in order to fight the Germans in 1941, the United States Congress saw an opportunity for negotiating trade barriers. Consequently, Great Britain and the United States came to an agreement : military equipment would be given, and not lended, to Great Britain for free on condition that the latter reduced its trade barriers. This internationaleconomic bargain benefited the United States to the extent that it allowed for a wider international market, with freer trade, and officially gave the United States the status of the first commercial power in the world. From there, Anglo-Americans discussion of international money and finance went on parallel to negotiations on trade and John Maynard Keynes and Harry Dexter White, representing the...
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