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Reconnecting The WTO With The People

Members of Parliament around the world have a key role in reconnecting people with the WTO, says National's Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Lockwood Smith.

Dr Smith was one of eight Parliamentarians chosen to work on a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association study group, on how to improve people's understanding of the work of the WTO. This week Dr Smith addressed a CPA conference on this issue, held in St Lucia.

"We see and hear a lot from NGOs about the impact of free trade, but it is important that democratically elected parliamentarians also play a role in educating and informing the public.

"Rightly or wrongly, many people do feel that trade liberalisation threatens their jobs. They fear it means exploitation of labour and degradation of the environment.

"Considerable research has focussed on these fears. Among developing countries, those more open to trade have grown far more rapidly than those not, delivering a far higher standard of living to their people.

"It's been also been recognised in the past decade that protectionism can have severely negative impacts on the environment, especially subsidies that encourage the over use of natural resources. For example, farming subsidies in New Zealand saw land totally unsuited for sheep farming cleared for production. The ensuing environmental damage is only now slowly being alleviated, but it took the elimination of those subsidies for it to happen. "Trade liberalisation is not an end in itself. Behind the technical WTO agreements lie the important human endeavours of improving employment opportunities and productivity, improving food supply and security, ensuring better access to health, education and information services.

"In essence, trade liberalisation is about improving the well being of all our people. This is the messaage we must communicate," said Dr Smith.


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