Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Kelsey: Time To Rethink Failed World Trade Agenda

Time To Rethink Failed World Trade Agenda


Op-Ed By Professor Jane Kelsey

The collapse of the Doha round negotiations at the World Trade Organisation is cause for celebration by poor people and powerless governments around the world.

Such a statement is tantamount to heresy in New Zealand. For years we have been fed a diet of simplistic free trade rhetoric – the WTO is about freeing up world agriculture markets, New Zealand’s exports depend on agriculture, therefore the Doha round is critical to the country’s economic survival.

With the WTO Director General Pascal Lamy expected to announce the indefinite suspension of the Doha round of WTO negotiations formally in Geneva on Thursday, it is time for some more sober and informed reflection on what is really happening in the name of ‘trade’.

The Doha round began in the shadow of September 11, 2001. The governments of poorer countries were told by US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick that opposing a new round would be siding with the terrorists. The merger of US economic and foreign policy objectives has become more prominent in the years that followed. That arrogance and belligerence underpinned the US’s refusal to move in the back room discussions in Geneva on Sunday that saw the round collapse. It is mirrored by the self-interest of all the other major players who sit at the high table.

But the collapse of the Doha round is not simply because the ‘G-6’ have failed to strike a deal among themselves. The organisation itself is deeply flawed. The very idea that six of the most powerful exporting states in the world – the US, European Union, India, Brazil, Japan and Australia - should dictate an outcome to the other 144 WTO Members shows how untenable its ‘consensus decision making’ has become.

More importantly, the WTO’s rules are crippling poor people and poor countries. When pressure mounted for a new round of negotiations back in the 1990s, many Third World countries insisted it should revisit novel agreements they had signed in the Uruguay round without understanding the consequences. These included rules on foreign investment, intellectual property and services that allowed transnational companies to strip mine their natural resources and local economies and export the profits.

The major powers never intended to address those concerns. So in 2001 the representatives of poorer countries rejected attempts to name this a ‘Doha development round’. Claims to the contrary are a cynical deceit. Whenever poorer countries tried to make the rhetoric match the reality, deadlines passed or transparent buy-offs were tabled. As one negotiator summed up the ‘trade of aid’ package that was announced in Hong Kong ministerial meeting last year: “First they kill us, then they offer to pay for the funeral”.

All sorts of fanciful projections have been quoted to disguise this reality. Yet in December 2005 even the World Bank reduced its projections of the gains from a ‘successful’ Doha round to $96 billion, less than one-fifth of what it
predicted in a now-discredited 2003 report. Rich countries would secure four-fifths of those gains and the largest ‘developing countries’ most of the rest. A more sophisticated report from the Carnegie Foundation concluded the world’s poorest countries would lose under all scenarios. The tragedy is that even the smallest and poorest countries – most recently Tonga – have felt they have no choice but to join the organization on crippling terms.

The collapse of the Doha round should strip away the illusion that poverty and gross global inequalities can be fixed by fiddling with free trade rules.

We can expect the New Zealand government to respond to this crisis with a knee jerk response and frenetically seek to negotiate bilateral deals with anyone who will talk to it. That exercise is doomed to similar failure. Already a ‘spaghetti bowl’ of regional and bilateral agreements is imposing inconsistent and uneven obligations among richer countries, while poorer countries succumb to pressure and sign deals they cannot afford to deliver.
US moves to condition trade concessions in Africa and Latin America on endorsing US foreign policy show the intimate relationship between trade rules and military power in the world today.

Our government and other champions of free trade should treat the crisis now confronting the WTO as an overdue opportunity to rethink their flawed model of international trade rules and address the real questions of global poverty, inequality and war.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news