War of words over global trade

War of words over global trade

Date: 29 July 2009

Global Trade Alert a website part-funded by the UK government, was launched last month, has hit the headlines as a weapon in rich countries’ armoury in the war of words designed to defeat protectionism and help free trade to conquer all.

The database monitors and highlights ‘protectionist’ policies that countries are implementing due to the economic down turn. This could go a long way to explaining the myriad of articles that declare that protectionism is killing global trade]

In The Times, the co-founder of the site, Professor Evenett, criticises developing countries for raising tariffs. But this is a very one-sided view point as European governments are currently implementing protectionist measures with gusto: they are bailing out the banking and car industries; increasing export subsidies for the dairy industry; and supporting a global intellectual property rights regime which through patents and monopolies means that European businesses can keep their technology to themselves. For developing countries, this means missing out on access to medicines and renewable energy technologies to combat climate change.

At the same time as being blamed for introducing protectionist measures, developing countries are actually being pushed to reduce tariffs and open their economies, in the name of free trade, at the World Trade Organisation and through a series of damaging bilateral trade deals with the EU. They do not enjoy the luxury of access to billions of Euros to subsidise domestic industry and local farmers. This is the EU telling developing countries ‘do as we say, not as we do’.

For those interested in an alternative monitoring tool, it is worth having a look at this website which highlights the current concerns with the free trade deals that the EU and US are pushing with developing countries. Yes the World Development Movement has a hand in this but we are not claiming otherwise.

We want to see a bit more honesty and a little less hypocrisy in these debates. The bottom line is that, in a world where more people are hungry than ever before and unemployment is rising, developing countries must be allowed to choose the economic policies that work for them. And they must not be blamed for harming global trade in the battle that sees the most powerful countries  wage a war of spin in the media and bull dozing in trade negotiations.