In one month’s time, we shall leave the 20th century behind. The first half of it saw the world almost destroyed by war — partly as a result of its division into rival trade blocs. The second half has seen an unprecedented expansion of world trade, which has also brought unprecedented economic growth.

This week’s meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle, and other meetings over the next few years, could be pivotal in determining whether the 21st century will be like the first half of the 20th, only worse — or like the second half, only better.

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