President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for the United States with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA eliminated most trade barriers among the three countries to create the largest free trade zone in the world.
President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos signed the Panama Canal Treaties of 1977. The treaties provided for an end to US control over the canal by the year 2000, with the US reserving the authority to defend the canal as an internationally used waterway.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established in 1995 as an international body charged with supervising world trading systems. With more than 140 member nations, the WTO establishes and enforces international trade agreements and works to liberalize trade and resolve disputes, create cooperation with global economic institutions, and bring developing countries into global trade. The WTO has also been subjected to criticism from those who oppose globalization and view its purposes as cultural imperialism.
The Panama Canal is an artificial waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Isthmus of Panama in Central America. Built by the United States between 1904 and 1914, the canal stretches about forty miles. The United States controlled the canal until 1979, when it became overseen by both US and Panama authorities joined together in the Panama Canal Commission. On December 31, 1999, the United States officially relinquished its control over the canal.
Brian DeLay, associate professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, discusses how the backwater of western Europe emerged from the devastation of the fourteenth century to generate the power, wealth, knowledge, institutions, and energy to initiate and develop a worldwide expansion.