by Stephen D. Krasner
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
The United States has been the indispensable power. International regimes, the norms, rules, and decision making procedures that have more or less governed transactions in the international system have reflected the power, preferences, and values of the United States. Most of these regimes claimed universal application even if the Soviet Union and its imperial possessions were excluded from some until the 1990s.
The United States took the lead in establishing the Bretton Woods Institutions in 1944, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. When domestic opposition prevented the creation of the International Trade Organization in 1948, the President used an executive agreement to establish the GATT.
In the mid 1990s the US took the lead in creating the World Trade Organization, which bundled together a number of treaties, not only the GATT, which dealt with tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers, but also treaties addressing other trade related issues such as intellectual property rights and investments.
The United States successfully negotiated with the Soviet Union a number of universal treaties governing space exploration and exploitation, most notably the 1967 International Space Treaty. The U.S. was one of twelve countries that signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, which, among other things, suspended sovereign territorial claims in Antarctica. Although the United States has never ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea it has been a major beneficiary of the new rules and concepts embodied in that agreement.