Thursday, August 21, 2003

Developing countries have at last gotten their act together in the area of trade. According to an Inter Press Service article, a group of countries that includes Argentina, Brazil, China, India, and South Africa is pushing a new initiative, backed by 16 developing nations, [which] demands a definitive end to all export subsidies, reductions in subsidies to farmers and greater access to agricultural markets.

The proposal seeks to reform agricultural policies in order to establish a fair international trade system, one that is guided by markets. It also aims to harmonize the diverse interests of the developing world through the adoption of the ”special and differentiated treatment” mechanism for poor countries and authorization to implement protection measures for products considered strategic for their economies, noted the article.

A spokesman for the group noted that developed countries have the means to subsidize farmers and agricultural products thus putting poorer countries at a distinct disadvantage. He noted that the average COW in the European Union receives $2.5 a day in government subsidies; a large percentage of the world’s HUMANS live on less than $2 a day.

A European official tried to discredit the developing countries’ effort as class warfare. He deemed the effort a “reinvention of the 1970s slogan of South versus North.”

I applaud the developing countries’ proposal. They have finally realized they must band together if they are to improve the lives of their people. I contend that foreign aid, while useful in the short term, has not BY ITSELF made a significant long term difference in development anywhere in the last 30 years. This is because of trade policies that are vastly unfavorable to developing countries. What the west gives with one hand (aid), it takes away with the other (trade policies) and then some. If western countries were to drop subsidies and open their markets to raw materials from Africa, Asia and South America, those developing countries could see their standard of living improve faster and more durably than any amount of charity would provoke.

Western countries have long banded together to protect the interests of their farmers. It’s past time developing countries did the same.


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