For nearly 50 years after the end of World War II, the United States led the effort to liberalize global trade through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

In 1994, the U.S. rallied 123 countries to sign a multilateral treaty establishing the World Trade Organization, which subsumed GATT while expanding its scope to cover services trade and intellectual property.

Paradoxically, America’s current industrial policy poses an existential threat to the multilateral trading system it worked so hard to build. In Washington, there is now a bipartisan consensus that the WTO has failed to defend America’s vital economic interests and inadvertently created a formidable geopolitical rival by allowing China to take advantage of the system. This realization has led both Democratic and Republican administrations to take steps that have shaken the foundations of the institution the U.S. helped found.