Trade and development
Source: Overseas Development Institute
A regional mapping of actors working to influence policy on trade, poverty and social exclusion in Latin America. March 2008 (pdf version). [see more]
 
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Forced trade liberalization is having real and diverse negative impacts on the day-to-day lives of millions of people and their environment, especially women, in all regions of the world. Inequality – both between and within countries – is increasing and millions are unable to meet even their most basic needs. Democracy is being eroded as Governments renounce or are made to renounce their right to regulate domestically in exchange for the chance to increase market access. The profits then increasingly go to companies and their owners, rather than countries and their citizens.

Critically, the North’s global consumption patterns are a threat to global natural resources and use the resources of the global South at rock-bottom prices. The North has therefore incurred an ecological debt to the South. Nevertheless, it is still those impoverished countries in the South that find themselves compelled to export more and more in order to pay off their ever-increasing financial debts. Ironically, this exacerbates the surplus in already oversupplied world markets, falling commodity prices and decreasing returns on Southern exports. These worsening terms of trade make it ever more difficult for the South to pay its debts. Moreover, they raise questions about the market-access paradigm that UNCTAD (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) keeps on “challenging” in its reports.

At the same time, the European Union and the United States, in a remarkable display of double standards, dump heavily subsidized farm exports onto world markets, destroying rural livelihoods in developing countries. Stopping the dumping of commodities and eliminating the consequent damage that such dumping inflicts on small farmers and producers worldwide have now rightly become the litmus test for whether poor countries can obtain any justice from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Rich world hypocrisy does not stop there. The industrialized countries still maintain high protectionist barriers against goods produced by developing countries. Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said that agricultural subsidies and trade barriers in the US, Europe and Japan cost poor developing countries an estimated $320 billion a year in lost trade.

Other trading problems faced by developing countries and countries in transition, such as the deterioration of exchange rates and the corporate-driven trade liberalization policies adopted by rich countries, contribute to their debt problem. In addition, when payments are made, precious national resources that could be spent on developing fair and sustainable economies and societies are channelled back to the rich North. In other words, the international status quo is impeding sustainable development, income generation and poverty eradication.

It is clear that current trade rules and trade policies – whether established or imposed by intergovernmental organizations or powerful Governments – are an obstacle to fair and sustainable development and must be made subservient to those rights – individual and collective – which the peoples of the world have established in the United Nations during the last century. In other words, alternative approaches and paradigms to the management of trade – national, regional and international – are essential.

The UNCTAD ended its 11th session (known as UNCTAD XI) on quite a high note in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 18 June 2004. Its most significant results included the recognition that developing countries have the right to more ‘policy space’ to meet their development needs, and the launching of a new round of South-South trade talks under the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP).

Based on the Civil Society Forum Declaration to UNCTAD XI (June 2004).




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Trade and Development Report 2007 (UNCTAD)

Trade and Development Report 2006 (UNCTAD)

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Bangkok Declaration: Global Dialogue and Dynamic Engagement (Third World Network)

Civil society

Martin Khor’s verbatim statement at UNCTAD XI on Assuring Development Gains (Third World Network)

Civil Society Forum Declaration to Unctad XI

Mapping Trade Policy: understanding the challenges of civil society participation (Institute of Development Studies)

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Articles and reports

Who is working to influence policies on trade and poverty in Latin America? (Overseas Development Institute)

Trade, growth, and poverty reduction: strategic dialogues on Hemispheric challenges (Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP))

Trade as if people matter (InfoChange News & Features)

The WTO – ten years on: trade and development (Tralac)

Trade and Environment (Global Mechanism)

Policy space for the development of the South (South Center)

The imperial tradition (The Guardian)

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Trade and sustainable finance for development (Jubilee Research)

TDR 2003: Raising Fundamental Concerns (Network Ideas)

Countries need discretion in choice of route to development, reform (Third World Network Features)

Make trade work for the poor (Oxfam)

Gender and trade

What do women stand to gain from trade? (Pambazuka)

Information resources

Trade and Development resources in the United Nations system

UNCTAD Developments (Third World Network)

International Trade and Development (Global Policy Forum)

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Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa


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