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Keith Rockwell, World Trade Organisation spokesman
"The debate is not about World Trade per se"
 real 28k

Glenn Ashton, Cape Town, South Africa
"There is no democracy in the World Trade Organisation"
 real 28k

David Carr, London, UK
"The developing world needs far more free trade"
 real 28k

Pat van der Veer, Halifax, Nova Scotia
"I was under the impression there were special provisions"
 real 28k

Martin Khor of the Third World Network
"It's going to be a very exciting ministerial conference here"
 real 28k

Jonathan Nbuna, Malawi
"World Trade cannot be fair when the playing ground is not level"
 real 28k

Francis Christian, Halifax, Nova Scotia
"Why have the lessons of history been forgotten"
 real 28k

Garnet White, Spanish Town, Jamaica
"I agree with the WTO ruling on the banana issue"
 real 28k

Friday, 3 December, 1999, 09:57 GMT
World trade - who really benefits?
World trade - who benefits?
As the World Trade Organisation (WTO) prepares to meet amid scenes of protest, do you believe that trade liberalisation really benefits everyone or is it just in the rich countries interest?

The battle for free trade
The WTO's spokesman Keith Rockwell and Martin Khor of the Malaysia-based protest group, the Third World Network answered your questions in our live debate.

Your comments since the programme:

I wonder why it is that those so in favour of globalisation and free trade are also the ones advocating strict immigration controls. Surely the two go hand in hand. If a level playing field for worldwide competition is desirable then all countries desiring to participate should open their borders to people, not only capital. How can it be that money is freer than people?
Themos Tsikas, UK

Competition is necessary for progress. The more we know about each other through world trade, the more we can exploit each others ability to our own interests.
Ajay K, India

I remember once upon a time when the world stop trading with South Africa because of its apartheid. Now all the WTO care is profit. " You have a dictator? too bad. It's your problem, but I like him because he give us cheap labor".
Lu Chang, USA

As I live close to Seattle, I'm in the fortunate position to get excellent all-day television coverage by KIRO TV Eyewitness News out of Seattle on the WTO protest. This may not be the French, American or Russian revolution, but the WTO protest is truly history in the making and a major turning point in modern-day activism. I hope the world is watching and that the next millennium will see a decent world for all the people and not just a select few (of course that won't happen but it is wishful thinking). I think the Seattle protesters deserve a lot of praise for their boldness and dedication, especially in the face of some very aggressive and armed riot police.
Angelina Spilberg, Canada

Basically it seems that this is about who has how much money... At the end of the day that is what is comes down to - whether the West is rich and say the majority of Africa comparatively poor etc. Environmental issues etc are applicable, but to Western countries. Why should we as the West have the right to say "you can't do that, even though we did it 200 years ago", and likewise why does the US have the right to make the EU accept hormone treated beef? Ultimately, the decision rests with the consumer - they will choose what they want to buy and therefore which interests they want to support.
David K, UK

I think all you anti-Americans give us far too much credit for causing all the ills of the world. You know as a country we have been around for a little over 200 years and until a little over 60 years wasn't a "World Power" until you Euros brought us into your little old wars
Eddie, USA

Who is kidding whom here? Competition - what competition? Would you want to race Linford Christie or Maurice Green if your life depended on it? It seems to me that the West is telling developing countries that they should get on the racing track to compete with them as if they were equals.
Maina, UK

I sympathise with many of the correspondents who see the drive for free trade as little more than economic imperialism by powerful Western Nations and companies. It should be realised, however, that protectionism would merely harm the poorest members of the Third World nations that these commentators seek to help. Surely it is better that we should share some of our wealth by exporting jobs to countries that can produce goods at a lower cost than we can in the West. After all, is it not better to receive a wage that may seem a pittance to us than to be left unemployed and in abject poverty. Free trade may be unpleasant in the short term but it will ultimately bring Global benefits.
Andrew Barlow, England

International trade is a major force for growth in the world economy and for the creation of employment for the world's poor. Trade barriers are primarily used to safeguard the interests of politically vocal minorities in richer countries. By protecting obsolete industries, we limit the opportunities for economic development and for the improvement in the standard of living in other countries. Some groups in the United States argue that freer trade undermines the environment. They do not seem to recognise that the greatest threat to the environment is from poverty. By providing opportunities for the poor to pull themselves out of poverty, freer trade will help us to protect the environment.
David Blandford, USA

I doubt anyone would have an objective to untrammelled "free" world trade were the original, basic elements of the International Labour Organisation's charter ratified by all nations and implemented as part of the WTO/GATT interlocking trade agreements. This charter, we in the "prosperous" West violate daily, which portion of the original UN Charter reads "the commodification of labour (i.e., slavery) is a crime against humanity." Indeed that very issue is what we fought the Nazis and the Japanese imperialists over.
Walt O'Brien, U.S.A.

The rich and the corporations benefit from world trade. Good industrial jobs move to the East and European and American workers are laid off. The goods that are produced in the third world countries come back to the USA or Europe at the same prices. The corporations and the rich benefit because they are making more money, but not paying the workers what they should, and meanwhile the American or European has a new job that pays less.
Linda Jenkins Crawford, USA

Free Ideas as public goods The greatest danger posed by the current fashion of free trade is that of privatising public goods in the guise of private intellectual property. Those who worry about the environmental and poverty dimensions of globalisation bear false banners for the privileged; worry instead of freeing ideas and the movement of people to share the benefits of globalisation for all people.
Shakeeb Khan, Lao PDR

Everybody benefits through division of labour. Though those that loss out in the short term should be compensated with some of the overall gain.
Graham Kenyon, EU

Is "World Free Trade" really free? What is free when comparing social and environmental conditions in India, China etc, to those in Europe or America. How about a reverse Import Duty? Countries are graded according to environmental, social factors etc. The difference between two trading countries results in a duty, charged at the more privileged country, that the lesser privileged country receives to improve conditions there. Example: In Europe a factory has very expensive environmental costs to minimise pollution. The same product is produced cheaply in China with extreme high pollution to the environment. A reverse duty will now add the environmental cost to the product made payable in China where it is then used for Environmental programs.
Anton Vrba, Austrian living UAE

I believe, as many other Americans believe that as a successful and progressive society we do have a clear responsibility to help other Nations develop. What is so frustratingly difficult is to devise ways to do this that do not impair our own future. Such self-impairment would be totally un-American and (hopefully) rejected by our elected Congress. Having worked and lived in many other countries - both Eastern, Western, developed and undeveloped - over the past 35 years I know these commonly-held feelings of our caring for other people and our frustrations with lack of solutions are not heard or understood by many outside of our shores.
Jon F Morris, USA

WTO is bad for poor people. Enough Said. This is true in the USA or any other country. Even in the USA, only the rich and monster companies benefit from FREE TRADE.

Tim F., San Diego, USA
WTO is bad for poor people. Enough Said. This is true in the USA or any other country. Even in the USA, only the rich and monster companies benefit from FREE TRADE. Not the poor people. And for the rest of the people, America may be "rich", but Americans are DIRT POOR, at least a vast majority of us. Do you believe your own life or CNN's MoneLine or other main stream media talking about the surge in the stock market. The truth is poor Americans are getting poorer and poorer and the rich are getting richer and richer. This has to do with Free trade among others. Americans are loosing jobs when companies relocate for cheap labours else where. It is even killing the people in the developing countries. So WTO should be be abolished and let countries do what they want to do.
Tim F., San Diego, USA

WTO is the new way of exploiting the "poor" nations. Specially America uses its power to gain its way in politics, economy and even, shamefully, culturally. African and other developing nations should start to rely more on each other and totally ignore the west. The west has never and will never work the benefit of the poor. WTO and western countries are cancer to world peace. The world will be a better place with out the western countries.
Kidus, Wonji, Ethiopia

In writing, the fundamental ideals of the WTO are good and fair to any country that wishes to participate. However, the problem with some of these world organisations is how they conduct business. Most often these organisations are turned into clubs for wealth countries. The UN is a prime example. Many times in the UN's history the U.S.A and/or UK have gained their way primarily because they are rich and powerful. And I am not so sure if it's any different in the WTO. To me, the WTO is simply an extra organ of rich countries to continue colonising third world countries, in disguise of course.
Golden Chabe, Zambian (U.S.A)

It is not true that free trade was the motor of what we know as 'the Industrial Revolution'. While Britain prostrated herself at the altar of Free Trade two other great success stories, the U.S and Germany, had protective tariffs as early as the 1870s. History is NOT one great route to the ideal of free trade. It is strange that we should be looking for some relevance in an economic doctrine created for conditions now a century out-of-date.
Ben Naples, UK

Free trade is an illusion, perpetuated by the governments and powers that will benefit from this policy. However Free Trade is not free and would not exist without the support of governments to initiate and maintain this policy

Barbara Cesana, USA
Free trade is an illusion, perpetuated by the governments and powers that will benefit from this policy. However Free Trade is not free and would not exist without the support of governments to initiate and maintain this policy. A very good book False Dawn by John Gray, a conservative British economist, tears down the Free Trade illusion after years of watching what happened in UK in the 1980's and 1990's. In the USA the working class people have not seen real wage increases in the last twenty years, a fact that many Free Traders ignore. The US infrastructure and public education system have declined dramatically in the last decades. The point of globalisation is not simply that hi-tech can reach and modernise the world, the point is that we all SHARE the same globe...forever... and need to create a system that benefits the vast majority, economically, politically, environmentally. The emphasis on bottom-line profits is destroying much more than is acknowledged under the glib assumption that dot-com will bring prosperity to all.
Barbara Cesana, USA

I like the idea of free trade, and market economies, but I see so little evidence of it. I look at the largest industries in my country (US), and must admit must were, at least initially, subsidised by handouts from taxpayers. I suspect that we will not see real free trade for a long time. However, we will see heavily subsidised western agriculture dumped into third world countries, and large trade between companies, whose largeness basically make them command and control economies.
Jim Vinsel, USA

I am for free trade but it favours the rich nations more, especially the US. They put patents on things that have been used in India for centuries and claim to benefit the consumers. We know where that money is going.
Aman Talwar, India

Free trade requires the dismantling of non-tariff barriers as much as lowering of tariff barriers. While developing countries may be guilty on the second count it is the developed countries that are guilty on the first. It is imperative that social, ethical and environmental issues are not incorporated in this round of discussion as that will mean greater non-tariff barriers facing exports from developing countries.
Dhiraj Nayyar, Oxford, UK

Primary producers rarely receive a living wage. What can the WTO do to ensure that trade rules take into account the needs and views of producer groups? These people are the most vulnerable in the chain and the most exploited.

David Eminson, Pakistan
The large multi-nationals provide products and services that are consumed mostly in the west. If people want to restrict these companies' global influence and power, they should refrain from giving them their money. Unless, that it is, they try to point the finger at marketing driven social engineering, which no matter how dazzling, does not remove free will from human consciousness. Of course, if we stop buying over 100 million shoes a year from China it's inevitable that some of the populace there will become impoverished again.
Sam Gibson, UK

I don't quite understand the Left's position. We can best help the poorer nations by closing our markets to them? What ridiculous economic proposal will the Left make next? I know! Perhaps they can lower unemployment in France by lowering the work week to 35 hours with no reduction in pay! That's sure to work!
John F, USA

The WTO is so democratic that the United States refused to officially join for several decades (when it was GATT) - because they would have the same amount of power as the smallest, poorest party.
US corporations DO NOT always win challenges. The best known examples of this are: Costa Rican Textiles, Venezuelan Oil, and Mexican Tuna.
Ideologically, WTO is as level a playing field as possible. However, building such an enormous and comprehensive administrative body takes time. What is being done now is laying the foundation. Eventually, 'free-trade' will be possible, and will bring equal benefits to the developing and developed worlds.
Environmental and social damage are intrinsic to non-sustainable development, so much so that they it has become a major focus for the UN development programme. Those countries that wish to export goods at the expense of their natural and human resources will gain nothing in the long-term and for the WTO to facilitate such economic policies is egregious.
Melissa Brown, Buenos Aires, Argentina / US

Ongoing struggles among the world's "haves" to protect their mean vested interests in the name of freeing world trade is futile. Even after centuries of scientific, economic & political developments, billions of human beings are still starving in absolute poverty, deprived of basic health and educational facilities and fundamental human rights.
Let us realise at the turn of new millennium that all liberalisation & development is meaningless unless we can ensure a more just and fairer distribution of wealth and resources.
I will urge all humanity to work together to evolve a free and fairer system of governance and development; that can provide for the basic necessities and freedom to all and reward excellence while avoiding unnecessary conflicts and wars.
Alok H. Mittal, Nigeria

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Your comments during the programme:

The WTO is a sham. Most of the wealth seen in the North has accumulated by colonialism. The WTO is responsible for neo-colonialism.
Glenn Ashton, Cape Town, South Africa

World trade can't be fair unless the playing field is made level. Tariffs on finished goods are higher than those on raw materials. The costs of expensive technology are passed on to developing countries. Malawi, which is a landlocked country, produces coffee, which has to pass through other countries thereby increasing costs.
Jonathan Nbuna, Malawi

I have sympathy for the WTO. What the developing and western worlds need is far more free trade not less. Protectionism and government regulation will not benefit trade. The greens are resprayed reds. The world needs more technological development. There's no evidence that human activity is harming the environment.
David Carr, London, UK

The new world order encompasses more togetherness. A country can do what it likes with its resources. They can subsidise them if they want. They should not stop goods coming in from the third world. Let the world compete.
Bhekuzulu Khumalo, Johanesburg, South Africa

Trade should be free and fair but should not be linked to political interests. When India went nuclear all these countries imposed sanctions but India is very self-sufficient we were able to withstand that.
Kiran Kumar Arasada, Nurenberg, Germany / Indian

WTO is a body by and for the OECD to the detriment to others. Why is there so much difference between what OECD countries preach and what they practice? Is the WTO promoting free or fettered trade?
Javana Reddy, Madras, India

Why does the WTO always makes decisions in favour of large American corporations? Examples include genetically altered food and Monsanto, and the banana affair in South America. The way the large American companies treat their banana plantation workers is well known. We've been forced to buy a product which I don't like.
Simon Moody, Florence, Italy

When governments lobby the WTO corruption arises and rulers loot their countries. For trade to be truly liberalised skills and productivity must be taken to the third world.
Yinka Ebaduni, London, UK / Nigeria

It's going to be an exciting conference because there are so many disagreements among the countries involved - especially developing countries. They say they are having problems implementing WTO agreements from the last round and don't want to see new issues brought in. But many developed countries want the WTO's powers extended to include investment, transparency, government procurement, and tariff cuts.
Martin Khor comments

What changes have there been in the work of NGOs since the Rio summit? Is the NGO community developing more cohesion?
David McBride, Berlin, Germany

There are special provisions made by the WTO to deal with developing countries. In the modern world you should get involved in the democratic process and make submissions to raise these issues with the WTO rather than demonstrate. Get away from the emotive and get more into the factual.
Pat van der Veer, Halifax, Nova Scotia

I agree with the WTO ruling on the banana issue. If we've been planting them for 3-400 years and can't get it right yet we are wasting time. Why don't we plant organic fruit and stop quibbling about the price of fertiliser and the size of the plantation in which we'll never be able to compete?
Garnett White, Spanish Town, Jamaica

Many governments at the WTO are paid vast sums of money by large biotech companies.
Patricia Troy, London, UK

The lessons of history have been forgotten. A few countries have benefited at the expense of other countries. Developing nations should be given the option to hasten slowly with free trade.
Francis Christian, Halifax, Nova Scotia

The absence of free trade is disastrous. Restrictive trade results in a huge debt problem for governments. In a free trade regime capital flows into a country with the burden on the investor.
Michael Derby, Sydney, Australia

The WTO is killing people in the Third World. It is a kind of colonialism. The US, WTO, IMF was formed by the same big boys. They dictate to underdeveloped countries what they should do. They tell us to buy their technology and turn us into a plantation economies.
Yasmin Yamani, Herts, UK

The WTO is just a rule-making organisation trying to protect every member. The idea that things would change overnight after the Uruguay round is fantasy. It's very easy to blame the big boys. The West have been lending all this money to the third world and rescheduling the debt indefinitely.
Fred Simpkin, London, UK

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Your comments before we went ON AIR:

It's interesting how global issues like the WTO so often become fodder for American bashing (particularly in the UK). As the world's strongest economy, the U.S. exerts a de facto influence on the WTO in proportion to its contribution to the global economic product. It simply has much more to bargain with. It's easy to say the U.S. only tries to enhance its status as the richest nation, but how did it get that way? By excelling at the innovation and competitive restructuring required by a global economy that is stacked with countries that don't play by the same rules. Blaming the U.S. for defending the success that has benefitted itself and the global economy as a whole sounds like whining from post colonial xenophobes in decrepit former empires (UK?) who are envious of those who have taken their place.
Chris R, USA

Trade barriers and regulations to stop free trade make us all poorer. Tariffs and hidden subsidies distort markets and ultimately cost more jobs than they save. The depression of the 1930's was the result of trade protectionism by the US. How ironic that the same US is so widely vilified for seeking not to repeat the experience. Don't the anti-US and anti-Free Trade lobbies know that the US runs a massive trade deficit with the rest of the world, which will only get bigger with falling trade barriers? They seem to miss the point - a major reason that the US is so big and powerful is because the economy is relatively free of barriers and government meddling. There is a very strong correlation between national poverty and excessive bureaucracy, aka trade barriers, which leads to massive corruption. We must not let allow badly informed special interest groups to divert a process of liberalisation which ultimately helps all of us.
Robert W. Jackson, Canada

Free trade in its current form is simply the right of businesses to exploit those with few employment choices and use them until even cheaper labour appears, whereupon they, their country and the welfare of their society is cast to the winds as the money moves out. Until globalisation carries with it an obligation to improve the living conditions of those it profits from, it remains simply a latter day imperialism for the benefit of a tiny minority of humanity.
Mark Woodward, London, UK

Open world trade benefits the low-wage countries, countries with lax health and safety laws, and major international corporations. As it is now implemented under WTO and NAFTA, it hurts everyone else. Of course countries need to trade with one another. It does not follow that we must bow down to WTO-style tyranny. In the United States, WTO and NAFTA have brought us unsafe Mexican trucks polluting our air and causing wrecks on our highways, American workers put on the dole by cheap goods produced by Chinese slave labour, and the negation of many of our health, safety, and environmental laws. In Britain it has meant putting on political pressure to debase the Pound Sterling, and it has meant that British grocery stores must carry sewage-fed French beef.
James Castro, USA

When the dust has settled, trade is about the single-minded creation of wealth that flows into the pockets of the few. There are many mechanisms involved in trade, but among the most pernicious is the way in which production seeks out low wages and taxpayer incentives around the world. In virtually tariff free New Zealand unemployment is now built into the system and every week scores, even hundreds, loose their jobs as production moves to places where labour is unprotected and wages verge on slave rates.

Exploitation of resources to produce often frivolous and unnecessary goods- sorry, to generate wealth-has brought global ecosystems to the threshold of collapse. Encouraging the population of developing countries, particularly India and China, to become consumers is terminal madness. The Earth can stand only so much more. It is time for the 'West' to plan for a reduction in production and consumption, to emphasise quality of life, over quantity of life. I'm convinced that removing consumerist pressure can only be good. What use is wealth after extinction.
Bill Wright, New Zealand

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that free trade is turning the US into a society of hamburger flippers, CEO's, ground floor managers, and temp-for-hire employees, the latter of which are lured by "temp" agencies hungry to cash in on employees who've been laid off when US industries pack up and move overseas. Some of this is perhaps good. But those products are being produced at ridiculously low wages, and guess who profits in the U.S. from this? The multi-nationals. In real terms, the average wages of the US worker are bound to go down. I think this phenomenon is splintering the traditional US middle class into a mishmash of desperate wannabe's who see their affluence waning. Most countries would still be grateful to have what we do-and who can blame them? But the continual bombardment Americans face in the media about the "good life" is engendering a sense of relative deprivation-a feeling that privilege is the stuff of dreams. Hollywood's, not the American Dream.

For free-trade to work, there must be a concomitant world-class ethic that seeks to pragmatically examine and implement processes that ensure an equitable balance between domestic prosperity and prosperity abroad. Unfortunately, this silly notion that world trade should be seamless, with no borders, is the very thing that ensures Peter will be blessed, but only at the expense of Paul. Spread the wealth? That's perhaps a just thing. But please, get real with this America-bashing. Americans are victims of hyper-free trade, too. And if that's not pathetic enough, let's consider that a lot of the stockholders in these multi-national corporations aren't even US citizens.
John Bickett, USA

The WTO is anti-democratic. It makes and enforces laws which have priority over democratically elected governments. It is peopled by corporate businessmen who are the winners in the 'free-trade' game.
I Schism, The Netherlands

Trade is not a sham, the sham comes in when people espouse free trade then protect the very sectors where poor countries have a comparative advantage. Agriculture. The sham is with the West. Free Trade should be free Trade.
Bhekuzulu Khumalo, South Africa

If the concept of "Free Trade" benefited the poor of the world it would not even be considered by the New World Order elitists who now rule the planet. It is one thing to say that growing bananas in Central America is economically sensible because of geographical advantages. But what is now happening is the capitalists are moving industries to cheaper and cheaper wage areas not to benefit the peoples of the underdeveloped countries but simply to generate greater profitability for themselves. This bubble will ultimately burst as the Western Countries will eventually be so de-industrilised that their workers will not have the resources to buy the imports needed to keep this farce going.

The WTO benefits the rich industrial nations/blocks/cartels. It is not easy for the emergent industrial countries to compete with the well-established ones hence the industrial nations stifle the poorer nations with their economies of scale and industrial infrastructure. Also the technologically advances sell their products at appropriate prices while at the same time depressing the products of poorer trading partners
Osuagwu Charles, Kuwait

Free trade may not be perfect but what is the alternative? Socialism has been tried and failed. Its failures being one of the main causes of the poverty that is being unfairly blamed on capitalism. It is laudable for rich countries to help poorer nations but it has to be remembered that wealth must be created before it can be distributed and capitalism and free trade have proved infinitely better at this then any other system tried so far. I agree with the aims of the WTO but feel that in practice it's tendency towards protecting vested interests hinders rather than helps free trade.
Alan Tyne, UK

The people who benefit from free trade are the corrupt bureaucrats and military officers in places such as China who make money hand over fist on the backs of the ordinary Chinese in sweatshops and by exploiting prisoners (many of whom are political) as slave labour. These communist officials and fat cat CEO's who are rewarded with millions of dollars for destroying good paying jobs in the USA and other western countries by exploiting the poor unregulated labour resources of china and other far eastern countries
Martin Woodcock, An Englishman in the USA

The economic arguments in favour of protectionism are not as outdated as some economists seem to suggest. One only has to look at the South Korean boom of the 1980's to see that. However, I still suggest that Cobden was right when he said: "Freedom depends upon the maintenance of peace [and] the spread of commerce..." Protection may be good for the economy but it is bad for the world.
Tom Morgan, UK

Who benefits from trade? That's an easy one: the consumer, who thereby has more choice in both the price and the quality of the goods he buys; the developed nations, which can concentrate production on high-skill, high-wage goods (what economists know as comparative advantage); and the developing countries, who can lift themselves out of poverty by integrating themselves into the global economy. In short, *everyone* gains from trade: it is a positive-sum, not a zero-sum, activity. It is entirely predictable that nations who cut themselves off from trade, and engage in autarky and import substitution, will suffer poverty and deprivation - consider the experience of, say, India and Tanzania, compared with that of Hong Kong since 1960. All those concerned with economic development will be wishing for a successful outcome to the World Trade Organisation's summit.
Oliver Kamm, UK

The problem with "free trade" is that the costs of competing products from all over the globe do not include the social, cultural and environmental damage of their manufacture. The cheapest products are assumed to be the most "efficiently" produced without proper consideration of the long-term consequences of their production. However, most of the producers do not gain anything if they are forced to include these considerations. These businesses only increase their values with increased sales. Therefore, before worldwide "free trade", we need to have truly worldwide standards in health, work-place safety, and social and environmental protections. There's enough wealth in the world to do this but it needs to be redistributed more equitably.
Paul Cheney, USA

I am all for free trade, but do not think we are following sustainable strategies. Things do not seem to have improved much for the third world, who are beggaring themselves, caught up in slash and burn cash cropping to pay debts. As resources become scarcer, competition to extract the remaining sources intensifies. Anyone looking at civilisations in the past, Mesopotamia, Maya, Pacific Islands, etc, can see the legacy of degradation. It is all very well to say further globalisation will lead to new technology that will solve all these problems, but it didn't save the Dodo or the ancient forests. I do not think all our needs can be met through virtual reality, we should remember that outside of the screen is a half-dead planet.
Tom, Australia

Like democracy, which is "Of the people, by the people and for the people," all these treaties, organisations are "of the developed countries, by the developed countries, for the developed countries." These are all to show their hegemony over the developing countries. Better control over ethical and social issues: Can the US reconsider its decision on trade with China; can Europe afford it?
Kiran Kumar Arasada, India, currently in Germany

Mr Morgan Davies talks about prosperity, and it is this sort of vacuous treatment of prosperity that side-steps the real arguments: Who are trade agreements designed for? How are our representatives planning on representing the people who voted for them? The aim should not be to strengthen "economic power houses" but to allow all to prosper reasonably, rather than a few to prosper phenomenally. The WTO does not seem to be about dismantling trade barriers, but rather to streamline big-business procedures that are currently hindered by democratic processes amongst others. We really have no idea what our leaders are planning, but if the UK government is anything to go by they will not be planning for people, but for corporations. And corporations are not democratic, nor do they respect democracy, nor are they answerable to society. What are governments doing?
Duncan Drury, UK

When we talk about freedom and democracy, let's try not to forget that we don't include freedom of the rich to exploit the poor or freedom of the strong to oppress the weak. If we are totally honest with ourselves, these are really the only reasons we have capitalism at all, to have "more" than our fellow human beings.
Bob, UK

The impression given is that the WTO benefits only first world countries and corporate businesses. An ethical and environmental dimension is needed by the WTO. We are humans first economic units second. If that is forgotten then first and third world poverty will remain and the environment will continue to be damaged.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

Who benefits? The USA and its crony friends. That's not being emotional either. The more I look at trade bodies like the WTO, all I can see are benefits for the USA. Never mind this "rich nations" idea, one RICH NATION seems to benefit and one nation only.
Mike, England

Trade is the engine that drives prosperity; we should throw our weight 100% behind the efforts of the WTO to remove trade-barriers. Thankfully, the abilities of nation states to obstruct free trade are becoming a thing of the past, despite what they may wish to believe. Restrictive trade practices condemn countries and the people who live in those countries to a slow but sure decline in their prosperity - those peoples who can seize the opportunities offered by global trade will be the new economic powerhouses.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, UK

It's just another form of imperialism. It was interesting to hear a labour MP defending the WTO and saying that all the member states have an 'equal' say, and how its all democratic !!! Now forget all the rhetoric, if that was true, why was an American trade group in China last week negotiating the opening up of Chinese markets to American companies, I saw no other representation from any of the other 135 or so other countries.

Basically WTO and Globalisation helps big powerful corporations to expand into new markets and thus increase profits, through reduced costs (cheaper labour & less costly work environments, which arise through less stringent laws) and as the US has the biggest say, US companies benefit the most. Why else do you think there is such big financial donations from companies to American presidential hopefuls? Certainly not on any moral grounds. It is perfectly true that Globalisation undermines national governments, in limiting the real choices they can make. In many ways the WTO is more powerful than the UN, in terms of the effects it can have on ordinary peoples lives!
Zafar Nadeem, England

In the light of the BSE scandal, it can be seen that Free Trade is yet another of those wonderful economic theories that only work if everyone involved plays it absolutely straight. It only takes one country to be greedy or protectionist for the whole thing to fall down - despite there being ostensibly nothing wrong with British Beef we are unable to protect our own industry from imports or export it to the two biggest consumer economies (apart from ours) in Europe. Free Trade must mean absolutely free, with swift legal retribution on the guilty, or it is more damaging than it is helpful. See also US banana war...
Philip Newnham, England

WTO is a sham. It only benefits the rich and makes the poor poorer. They fix the prices of raw materials very low compared to the finished products, which are mostly produced by the rich nations.
Alie P. Koroma, Sierra Leone

I really have an impression that this time is very hard for the participant to reach a consensus. But, we have to try our best to solve the entire trade problems in the future. Furthermore, for considering the entrance of Taiwan in WTO, I would like to state the importance of our entrance, and hope that the international society will take this issue as a step to declare the liberty of the world trade.
Nacho Lee Chia-Lin, Republic of China

I've spent 6 years in and out of China and I know from first hand experience, America has been raped by free traders who've shipped out trillions of dollars in money, equipment and technology all over the world thereby driving the wages of American workers down by massive amounts and then importing foreign made goods into America and elsewhere to sell at nearly the same cost they would sell at if they'd been made in America but whose cost from their country of origin was less than a forth of what it would cost to make them in America.

The resulting massive profits are then laundered or concealed and shipped out of the country to over seas banks. (the Swiss, Luxembourg, etc.)For example the finest French shirts being made of Egyptian cotton were manufactured in a sweat shop in my building under terrible conditions and the whole Chinese organisation earned less than 75 cents for all their labour including packaging the shirts but I found those same shirts selling in Paris for $55 a shirt. However the French company claimed it hadn't made any money for the last three years. If America stopped buying (which it must at some point) all these markets (in America) would be closed off and tens if not hundreds of millions of people would be turned into the streets to starve by their thieving leaders.
John Puttre, USA

The theory of free markets is that every country will rise or fall according to how it uses it competitive advantage, which it has to determine and then deploy. Unfortunately, most developing countries have neither the competence nor the leadership skills to understand the subtleties of this. This should not detract us from the proven effectiveness of free market economics, especially in the natural levelling of the playing field that it provides, but it does require the West to teach the basics and demonstrate leadership on the matter. Trouble is, how do we do this without being perceived as self-serving and imposing our industrial will? One of the more perfect examples is how the Sudan absolutely blew-it since independence ... from ground nuts and cotton to handouts and civil war.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

Yes, I believe in Free Trade and open access to markets. Protectionism is going the way of the dinosaurs and rightly so. I do not believe that we are in a position to judge other countries social behaviours and certainly should not utilise trade and embargoes as punishment. We may then be punishing the very people that we supposedly have concern for. Countries, such as Canada, are quite protectionist, to the detriment of some of its citizens. (Some of this protectionism is union sponsored.) Basically, most people are very reluctant to embrace change.
Pat van der Veer, Halifax, Canada

This is a question which is bound to elicit a series of 'hands up in horror' responses from the left. I find it odd that so many people applaud free speech, free movement and free association but decry free trade as something that must be stamped upon. If anything has caused poverty in the 'third world' it is loony Marxist governments with their state ownership, planned economies and protectionism. If there is anything that will help these people on the road towards prosperity and a better life it is capitalism and free trade. Of course, whilst free trade is good news for ordinary people it is bad news for bureaucrats and regulators of all varieties. Another reason to vote for it. Increasing globalisation may well lead to a World Order; not a New World Order but a Free World Order and hooray for that.
David J.K. Carr, England

I am impressed by the BBC's coverage of this issue. I am totally opposed to any institution having authority over the rule of a duly elected national government.
Robert Markosky, Canada

We must stop stealing resources from Africa and Asia. For instance, patents are made on known plants or trees which have medicinal properties and were known centuries ago ( ie : Ayurveda in India ).
Gerard Lambert, England

"World Trade" as it is known is really developed countries enforcing their imperialistic agendas under the mask of "democratic" trade. The United States is very often the culprit, pushing its own desires wherever it can, and being able to help countries in need only when there is an economic benefit involved. However, it is a democratic system, where the rich abuse the poor. The poor have the chance to elevate themselves to a powerful status, which is better than being poor forever.
Jane Shlimovich, USA

As an economist, I admire the beauty and power of the theories which conclusively demonstrate the desirability of free trade. Unfortunately they are of little relevance in the real world. Markets don't function smoothly or quickly, and consequently they result in unemployment and social marginalisation for subjects whose own governments have been gullible enough to buy into the right wing's latest agenda. Free trade is undermining individual government's abilities to respond to their own electorates concerns. Fund social programs ? We'll become globally uncompetitive. Impose environmental regulations ? The increase in costs will destroy our forest industry. Stand up for human rights in China ? We'll lose access to markets.
Paul Warren, Canada

Which other countries benefit other than the US and the Western World? The developing countries will continue to buy from these countries for years to come and imagine the one billion plus people of China. Wow! What a market!
Isaac, UK

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See also:

24 Nov 99 | Battle for Free Trade
The Battle for Free Trade
23 Nov 99 | Battle for Free Trade
Developing countries fight for free trade
24 Nov 99 | Battle for Free Trade
WTO's labour battle
24 Nov 99 | Battle for Free Trade
WTO hits back at eco-critics
23 Nov 99 | Battle for Free Trade
Free trade flashpoints
24 Nov 99 | Battle for Free Trade
Trade blocs and bullies
01 Sep 99 | The Economy
New world trade Czar
27 Jul 99 | Business Basics
World trade wars
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