Various other organizations deal with economic issues. The World Bank, for example, offers loans and technical advice to developing nations. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) encourages global economic growth, promotes international monetary cooperation, and helps developing nations solve economic problems. It also lends to countries in crisis.

Thousands of organizations not linked to governments also provide aid. These non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are voluntary, non-profit groups. Some address certain issues, such as human rights, disaster relief, the environment, or medical care. The International Red Cross is an example of an NGO. (The Red Cross operates as the Red Crescent in Muslim nations and the Red Star of David in Israel.)

Treaties and Global Trade

Governments have signed international treaties to help regulate world trade. In 1947, 23 nations signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to expand world trade and reduce tariffs, or taxes on imported goods. GATT later evolved into the World Trade Organization (WTO), which included 159 nations as of 2013.

Photo of a group of people standing in front of a large gold relief sculpture of Africa emitting rays.

Officials of the African Union meet with European representatives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2013. The AU is one of many regional organizations that engages in peacekeeping, emergency relief, and other operations.

The WTO seeks to resolve trade disputes among members. Recently, members agreed to offer better access for developing nations to market in rich countries. The WTO opposes protectionism, or the use of tariffs and other restrictions that protect a country's home industries against international competition.

Since the 2008 global economic crisis, the major world economic forum is the Group of Twenty (G20). It includes 19 leading industrial nations plus the EU. G20 leaders meet yearly to discuss ways to strengthen the global economy. They have focused on promoting job growth and free trade.

Regional Trade Blocs

Many nations have formed regional blocs, groups, to boost trade and meet common needs. Among the largest is the EU (European Union.) In 1994, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Association) eased restrictions and promoted trade among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. APEC (Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation) was formed to further trade among Pacific Rim nations. OPEC, representing oil-producing countries, regulates the production of oil to stabilize the market.

Regional trade groups perform an important function by lowering trade barriers and encouraging the free exchange of goods and services. Often, regional organizations like the African Union (AU), deal with both economic and political issues.

Benefits and Costs of Globalization

Instant communications, modern transportation networks, and increasing economic ties continue to push globalization, which has affected every aspect of life. Even as the world becomes more interdependent, people debate the impact of globalization.


Competition and the use of low wage workers in the developing world has allowed multinational corporation to offer goods and services at low prices. People in the industrial world, especially, have benefited from lower prices and a variety of goods. Many developing nations have used increased wealth from global trade to build needed transportation, raise standards of living, and provide better services.

The mass migration of people from rural areas to cities has transformed lives. In cities, people often have better access to education and health care. Urbanization has introduced people to new ideas and technologies.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments