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11 - Keynes and International Trade Politics after the First World War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 December 2023

Patricia Clavin
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
Giancarlo Corsetti
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Maurice Obstfeld
Affiliation:
Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington DC
Adam Tooze
Affiliation:
Columbia University, New York
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Summary

This chapter discusses Keynes’s Economic Consequences of the Peace as a matrix for understanding the changing institutional landscape of international trade. In 1919, Keynes highlighted the perils of German participation and US non-participation in international politics, twin problems that continued to frame trade debates in the League of Nations for the remainder of the 1920s. Generally, German leaders supported the construction of an open and regulated world economy. Many internationalists were eager to lock Germany into a system of multilateral norms but also feared that integrating Germany into global markets would reinforce its dominance in key strategic sectors. In contrast, the United States remained aloof from League trade negotiations in the 1920s. Europeans were divided over whether to respond with universal trade rules that the United States might eventually be persuaded to follow or with a regionalist approach that would enable Europeans to negotiate directly with their Atlantic neighbour on a more equal footing. As Keynes saw clearly, both sets of concerns were exacerbated by the financial imbalances stemming from war debts and reparations.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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