However, all these protectionist measures were light compared to the previous mercantilist period and, despite the anti-free trade environment, including a series of isolated trade wars, international trade flows continued to increase. But if international trade continued to develop despite many obstacles, the First World War would prove fatal to the trade liberalization that began in the early 19th century. While the GATT aimed to promote tariff reduction between Member States and thus lay the groundwork for multilateral trade expansion, waves of regional trade agreements intensified over the next period. In less than five years after the creation of the GATT, Europe, with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, would begin a programme of regional economic integration which would ultimately become what we know today as the European Union (EU). This broad scope makes them more robust than other types of trade agreements as soon as all parties sign. Bilateral agreements are easier to negotiate, but only between two countries. The rise of nationalist ideologies and sluggish economic conditions after the war served to disrupt world trade and dismantle the trade networks that had marked the previous century. The new wave of protectionist barriers prompted the newly created League of Nations to hold the first world economic conference in 1927 to outline a multilateral trade agreement. Nevertheless, the agreement would have little impact, as the onset of the Great Depression triggered a new wave of protectionism.
The economic uncertainty and extreme nationalism of that time created the conditions for the outbreak of the Second World War. Over the past 20 years, WTO members have agreed on extensive updates to WTO regulations to improve global trade flows. WTO membership has extended to > members who account for more than 98% of international trade. In 2015, the WTO reached an important milestone with the entry of its 500th trade dispute for the settlement. The Doha Round was launched in 2001 to achieve comprehensive reform of the international trading system by introducing weaker trade barriers and revised trade rules. One of the fundamental objectives of the Doha Development Agenda is to improve the trade prospects of developing countries. The WTO secretariat has published a report on the treatment of medical devices in regional trade agreements (ATRs) amid current supply shortages due to the COVID 19 pandemic in 2019, which examines trade in medical devices between preferential partners and differences in liberalisation rates within and outside these trade agreements.