Prior to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) signed in 1947, trade agreements involved a complex web of bilateral agreements between countries. These agreements were often based on protectionist policies that sought to limit trade in order to protect domestic industries.

Countries would negotiate individual agreements with each other that set tariffs, quotas, and other barriers to trade. These agreements were often lopsided, with one country benefiting at the expense of the other. For example, a country might agree to lower tariffs on a specific product in exchange for the other country lowering tariffs on a different product. This type of bartering system made it difficult to achieve any sort of overall balance in trade.

In addition to the bilateral agreements, there were also multilateral agreements such as the League of Nations` World Economic Conference in 1927 and the Havana Charter in 1948. These agreements attempted to create a more stable and fair trading system, but ultimately failed due to a lack of participation and conflicting interests.

The GATT, however, was a groundbreaking international agreement that sought to create a global framework for free trade. It was negotiated by a group of 23 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, and aimed to reduce tariffs and eliminate trade barriers. The GATT became the foundation for the World Trade Organization (WTO), which was established in 1995.

The GATT and WTO have had a profound impact on global trade, facilitating the growth of international commerce and creating a more level playing field for countries of all sizes. While there are still challenges to free trade, particularly in the current political climate, the GATT and WTO have set us on a path towards a more interconnected world economy.

In summary, prior to the GATT`s signing in 1947, trade agreements involved a patchwork of bilateral and multilateral agreements that often favored one country over another. The GATT was a pioneering effort to create a global framework for free trade, and it has since paved the way for the World Trade Organization and helped facilitate globalization.