Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Free trade, fair trade and human development

Gardenia_00006_1Why do we have global negotiations on free trade and nothing on fair trade? After nearly half a century of free trade agreements, most of us have come to understand the benefits of free trade for economic development. However, free trade should be a two-way street in order to foster development for all participants. And development is more than just growth of GDP and GDP per capita. Development is also and perhaps mainly schools, hospitals, concert halls, theaters, books, libraries, universities, freedom of speech, free press, a fair government, limited influence from big corporations, social protection systems, health care, high-quality public schools, secure neighbourhoods... And the best system to have all that is the European model of development, regardless what the neoconservative extremists claim. Only we have to find news ways to fund such a development model on a global scale.

I have not seen anything serious written and communicated about how social welfare frameworks and labour legislation could be included in free trade negotiations so as to make international commerce a bit more conducive to human and social development. For example, there could be a worldwide development fund which would receive taxes on imports from nations that do not have any form of social care; taxes would be such as to impose on the products exported by such nations a burden equal to the one they would have to bear if their governments were interested in protecting their people in at least a very minimal way... Only we would have to make sure the minimum is more than what the US neocons consider adequate in their belief that the poor, not the powerful, are to blame for the existence of poverty, at least in the world's most developed nation.

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