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Since the end of World War II, ambitious institutions and regimes have emerged to regulate international economic life. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) provided multilateral legal guidelines for governing trade restraints; the World Trade Organization (WTO), as the new incarnation of the GATT's original institutions, has extended its jurisdiction to encompass intellectual property and services. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) initially wielded extensive authority over the international monetary system and, though its mission has been in flux since the 1970s, retains a leading role in the international financial system. Alongside these global regimes, numerous regional and bilateral treaties pursue greater trade liberalization and investment protection. Other treaty regimes control trade in specific goods such as nuclear materials, weapons, and cultural property.

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