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World Trade Center New Orleans: Celebrating 75 Years of International Trade

Thomas P. Spiers, Chairman of the Board, WTC New Orleans; Hon. Edward T. Hayes, Board Member, WTC New Orleans; and J. Edwin (Ed) Webb, Chief Executive Officer, WTC New Orleans


As part of the World Trade Centers Association’s (WTCA) 50th Anniversary, we look back on one — if not THE — original Members of our organization. At a gala on November 8 World Trade Center New Orleans (WTCNO) celebrated three-quarters of a century with a black-tie gala in the heart of the city. WTCA was on-hand to help celebrate this historic moment, and the event was the culmination of WTCNO’s week-long schedule of events supporting international trade. As our oldest Member, the editorial team at WTCA Meridian asked WTCNO to pen a brief history of their historic participation. 

On November 5 through 8, World Trade Center New Orleans proudly hosted the 3rd annual Louisiana International Trade Week & Jubilee in celebration of two 75-year milestones in international trade – the organization’s initial involvement in a consensus that would later form the World Trade Organization (WTO), and its unique position as a progenitor of the WTCA via the International House, and subsequently World Trade Center New Orleans. 

In 1944, with the end of World War II in sight, 730 delegates representing 44 countries huddled in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to forge an international consensus on trade, monetary, and exchange rules. The general agreement on tariffs and trade was the key outcome on trade, with fundamental principles of economic non-discrimination guiding decades of unprecedented global growth, ultimately resulting in the creation of the WTO 50 years later in 1994. While the past 75 years of international trade have not been perfect, the GATT/WTO system has provided security and predictability for global economies once dominated by agricultural and industrial trade, which is now moving to service-based economies filled with digital promise.

Our second 75-year milestone started right here in the Crescent City. As John Maynard Keynes of Britain and Harry Dexter White of the United States were forging new international economic policies in New Hampshire, local leaders William Zetzmann, Sr.; Rudolph Hecht; and E.O. “Archie” Jewell established the International House, and later the International Trade Mart, as institutional vehicles to capture and consolidate post-World War II international commerce in Louisiana. 

Leaders of these formative institutions included Alton Ochsner, M.D.; John P. Laborde; Basil Rusovich; James J. Coleman, Sr.; C. Alvin Bertel, Jr.; Hale Boggs; and many other visionaries. The successes of these institutions lead to their merger and creation of World Trade Center New Orleans, which together with its home city hosted the first General Assembly of the WTCA in 1968. Since then, the World Trade Center has been admirably led by the Hon. Thomas B. Coleman; Frank B. Stewart, Jr.; Ambassador Donald Ensenat; John L. Ochsner, M.D.; Hon. Patricia Denechaud; Hon. Donna Fraiche, and many other luminaries dedicated to the promotion of international trade, diplomacy, and peace throughout the state of Louisiana.

As we memorialize 75 years of trade, World Trade Center New Orleans honors Louisiana’s ongoing role supporting international economic growth. Together with our valued clients and business partners we celebrate this milestone with Louisiana’s multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) development projects, record-breaking cargo volumes, and expanding port activities; US-leading manufacturing productivity; and export-lead agricultural growth. World Trade Center New Orleans is driven by a passion for, and dedication to trade, both on a local and global scale. Today’s economic climate faces important systemic challenges deserving the same passion and dedication given in Bretton Woods and New Orleans 75 years ago.

On behalf of the World Trade Center New Orleans Board of Directors and leadership, we pledge our continued efforts to ensure that Louisiana maintains and grows its rightful position at the forefront of the new international trade economy in this new decade and beyond, hand-in-hand with its fellow WTCA Members around the globe.