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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 17:08 GMT
WTO agreement: Will it boost the world economy?
The Doha World Trade talks have ended in agreement after the marathon six-day meeting in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar.
Trade ministers from 142 countries agreed to launch another round of talks after hammering out an agenda to help forge a new world trade deal by 2005.
The new trade deal should significantly expand free trade and potentially boost the world economy.
The agreement has brought significant benefits for developing countries, such as the easing of international patent law, which will allow them to produce drugs cheaply.
In addition the European Union (EU) has agreed to reduce some of its agricultural subsidies.
Will the agreement on trade talks boost the world economy? Do you think it will have a positive impact on developing nations? Or is there a lot more that needs to be done?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The real irony is that the poor nations are desperate to trade with the rich ones and want existing trade restrictions lifted (which the US and Europe still shamefully resist). All the major organisations who are concerned about world poverty recognise the importance of trade in reducing poverty (even at the expense of increasing relative inequality). Opening our markets to poor nations and buying their products is the absolute best way to alleviate their poverty. Everyone wins.
This hard-fought success will breathe new life into the WTO, battered by a disastrous failure to reach a similar agreement in Seattle two years ago. It will also provide a psychological boost to the global economy at a time when many countries are teetering on the brink of recession in the aftermath of the attacks on the United States on September 11.
An agreement in itself is a major accomplishment. Nations, 142 in number, must have bolstered their economies for years to come.
Zafar Almas, Islamabad, Pakistan
It is ironic that the "multi-nationals" have provided the kind of world whereby Zafar Almas, from Pakistan, can express himself to me here in the US ... the telephone, the computer (with all its technical components), the internet, the video screen ... the list goes on and on. Like all his kind, they want the best of what we have invented and made available, but do not wish to participate in, encourage or take responsibility for promoting the very culture that encourages such innovations! I'd wager that there is much latent talent and brilliance in Pakistan just bursting to get out, if only the Luddites and the primitive thinking of the cultural institutions in developing countries let freedom rip! In the end, you'll understand ... in the meantime, just keep buying our stuff!
As usual, we have extraordinarily comments about global trade, this time from Mark M Newdick. Leaving aside the problems of the Western view of development being necessarily 'good', the thesis that 'innovation' produces profit is extremely flawed. In the West, we see that much low-paid, physically demanding (and frequently dangerous) manual work in production has given way to work in management and service sectors. But the production work is still done - usually in poor countries for offensively low wages as corporations seek to reduce production costs. The WTO and IMF help to stifle competition from poor nations by forcing them to adhere to free trade agreements (no subsidies or trade barriers, goods produced solely for export), while the West frequently ignores these rules. Nobody subsidises rice more heavily than the US, and each economic downturn is met by embargos on imports to help domestic products.
So Mark M Newdick, the wealth that you enjoy relies more on the US breaking free trade agreements and exploiting workers in poor countries than all of those high-minded notions about cultural freedom and good-ol' US innovation.
The majority world sees miniscule advantages in the agreement and many flaws.
Civil Society Organisations and Farners' Organisations which have monitored the process closely are deeply concerned at the inequitable negotiations, the arm-twisting to secure an agreement and the emptiness of the deal. With the exception of access to cheaper drugs, few benefits are forthcoming on Intellectual Property, Environment, Labour and so on.
Most of the positive proposals from civil society have not been considered. These include protection of the rights to development, promotion of local economies, food security, social, cultural and labour rights, and protection of the environment. These proposals recognize that the competence of the WTO must be limited to trade, and that conflicts between trade and other international agreements must be resolved outside the WTO system.
The persistent mantra of corporate and OECD government leaders alike has been that the necessity of remaining competitive in a global economy requires governments to cut regulations and to encourage the most favorable climate for foreign investment, often at the cost of worker rights and environmental integrity.
WTO should now limit, not try to extend, its agenda and the UN should wrest from the WTO the governance of the key social, economic and environmental issues that can contribute to sustainable deevlopment.
Yet again, we hear the charge that free trade is a vehicle for "exploitation" by rich multinationals of poor developing countries. This is refuted by ALL the evidence, which shows that small, less developed countries BENEFIT significantly from freer trade. If there is any "exploitation" it is by western governments, notably the EU's continued defence of the CAP, a huge barrier to trade.
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