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Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 11:49 GMT
Does free trade do more harm than good?
If you put the question in very general terms, yes of course free trade is a good thing... (but) free trade doesn't mean that we have to accept laissez-faire. We think we have to find the right way between free trade, free market and regulation.
Free trade does a lot more good than harm; the current position is not free because trade is not free enough... I would tend to adopt a laissez-faire perspective.
Dr Razeen Sally
Joining Mark Reid are from Paris Mariesol Touraine, a member of parliament with France's governing Socialist Party, and here in London Dr Razeen Sally of the London School of Economics.
But under which, by and large, the benefits outweigh the imbalances? Or is the fact that the richest two hundred people in the world are wealthier than the poorest fifty countries simply so morally indefensible that free trade itself cannot be defended?
These are the issues being raised by protestors at the World Trade Organisation conference in Seattle this week. Activists are bringing what they say is an unfair deal for developing countries to the attention of the WTO and the world.
Europeans also have views on these matters as the majority of the world's richest countries are in Europe.
The Thatcher/Reagan years saw a shift in power to transnational corporations, with democracy being seriously weakened. Corporations now have far too much influence, particularly with the US government, but increasingly in Britain as well.
Capitalism fails all peoples because it requires losers as well as winners. If you fall into the losers category it doesn't matter if you live in Moscow or Milan, Belgrade or Birmingham, you suffer.
One notes that as of Jan. 1, English merchants will be fined 2000 pounds if they dare offer their wares weighted in pounds or ounces. The rationale is "efficiency," i.e., so you can engage in "free trade" (i.e. managed trade) with the EU. But this is just the kind of totalitarianism we used to see in the USSR; the real object is to force people to give up their traditions on pain of punishment. Mustn't be on the wrong side of history, you know! I would conclude that such "free trade" side-effects show the ideology's levelling, totalitarian nature. So much, by the way, for the ancient rights of Englishmen.
I have to reply to Mr. Morton assertion that "'Free Trade' is simply a way for the very wealthy to justify using their power and wealth to make them selves even wealthier at the expense of the poor."
Ok, so the wealthy West 'imposes' free trade. The poor nations are 'forced' to buy from them as their own economies cannot compete. The poor nations get poorer, the rich get richer.
It's all relative, as Einstein said. It is problematic to apply unified trade rules to so many countries. It's "fair" for some, and not "fair" for others. Compare the effect on steel industry and agriculture of Chine and Russia vs. that of the USA, for instance, if they all join WTO.
'Free' trade is a euphemism for trade rules designed specifically for transnational corporations. It tramples on democracy and the right of free people everywhere to self-determination and local control of resources. The WTO is a corrupt institution that operates in secret and does not directly recognise public opinion. They have already overturned environmental, public health and labour laws in the US and around the world. They have no concern for anything but money.
Those countries which engage in trade are prosperous, whereas those countries that cannot or will not engage in trade are not. It would therefore seem that trade per se is a good thing and should be liberalised. Regulation is called for to secure to those who do not benefit directly the fulfilment of their needs, to protect scarce resources and the environment, and to prevent the abuse of economic predominance.
What we need is "fair trade" not "free trade", nothing is free and the word trade is often used to describe actions that would be better described as theft.
There is no compromise in free trade, it means stability is co-operation between countries. Especially small countries are helpless without organisations like WTO.
WTO is an attempt to help the most people without falling into socialism, which does not work.
A company like Microsoft can allocate resources to solving a small problem in its browser software which many nations cannot apply to their infrastructure. In these terms is this a level playing field? If it's free trade, is it fair trade? 'Free Trade' is simply a way for the very wealthy to justify using their power and wealth to make them selves even wealthier at the expense of the poor. There is absolutely no moral validity to the notion of 'free trade'.
The developing countries are ill-prepared to partake in this so called "economic globalism".
Most of these potentially rich European countries have successfully crossed the "muddy water"
of economic development. For Developing countries to be not only partaker, but also beneficiaries,
"social safety net" has to be invented for the Poor. Humanity must prevail over the dark forces of globalisation.
The rally in Seattle marked the
beginning of a new era. Protesters
rallying against the WTO and its
conference on free trade were fired
upon by police using tear gas, rubber
bullets and red pepper spray. One
has to look deeply to find out why a
relatively peaceful city could be in
a state of civil emergency.
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