The economists Harry White (left) and John Maynard Keynes at the Bretton Woods Conference. Both had been strong advocates of a liberal international trade environment and recommended the establishment of three institutions: the IMF (for fiscal and monetary issues); the World Bank (for financial and structural issues); and the ITO (for international economic cooperation). The WTO's predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), was established after World War II in the wake of other new multilateral institutions dedicated to international economic cooperation — notably the Bretton Woods institutions known as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. A comparable international institution for trade, named the International Trade Organization was successfully negotiated. The ITO was to be a United Nations specialized agency and would address not only trade barriers but other issues indirectly related to trade, including employment, investment, restrictive business practices, and commodity agreements. But the ITO treaty was not approved by the U.S. and a few other signatories and never went into effect. In the absence of an international organization for trade, the GATT would over the years "transform itself" into a de facto international organization.  GATT rounds of negotiations
See also: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
The GATT was the only multilateral instrument governing international trade from 1946 until the WTO was established on January 1, 1995. Despite attempts in the mid 1950s and 1960s to create some form of institutional mechanism for international trade, the GATT continued to operate for almost half a century as a semi-institutionalized multilateral treaty regime on a provisional basis.  From Geneva to Tokyo
Seven rounds of negotiations occurred under GATT. The first real GATT trade rounds concentrated on further reducing tariffs. Then, the Kennedy Round in the mid-sixties brought about a GATT anti-dumping Agreement and a section on development. The Tokyo Round during the seventies was the first major...