Summary: Joint Session between Working Group on Environment, Trade and Sustainable Development and
Working Group on Human Development
Impact of international trade on human development and poverty alleviation
||17 July 2002, 16:00-17:30
Moderator(s):|| • Mr. Hugo Cameron, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)|
Presenters/ Participants:|| • Mr. José Mari Cebeiro, World Rural Forum (WRF)|
• Ms. Cecilia Oh, Third World Network
• Ms. Elisabeth Türk, Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
• Mr. René Vossenaar, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
||Anna-Maria Lancianese (ICVolunteers), Luis Alberto
||Trade, WTO, decision making, sustainable development, trade distortions
This session was devoted to a discussion on the impact of trade in sustainable development. After a brief presentation of the subject, Mr. Hugo Cameron from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, introduced the three panellists.
Ms. Elisabeth Türk, of the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
described three pillars that make up international trade: economic development, social development and environmental protection.
Ms. Türk, explained that WTO has two main impacts: regulatory and practical. WTO members are governments whose goals are to increase trade flows and they use regulatory tools. She emphasized that an increasing in trade is not always positive for all groups involved. She mentioned the importance of knowledge as power and the fact that the North can use that knowledge to which the South has no access, and intellectual property protection could be a barrier to the spread of
She also detailed trade in services. Her main message was that WTO members should assess situations in developing countries prior to
increase liberalized trade. To do so, one must ask several questions:
- What benefits has the particular country already received?
- Does the country need additional trade at this time?
- It is possible that increasing trade could have negative consequences on human rights
Ms. Türk concluded her presentation by affirming that WTO needs coherence on policy
Ms. Cecilia Oh of the Third World Network next described two conflicting paradigms:
- Sustainable development and equity between developed and developing
- The new liberalization/globalisation.
Ms. Oh stressed that in the last 10 years following the Rio Summit, the second paradigm has taken over. Trade liberalization has not helped developing countries. Their GDP has not increased significantly in the last 20 years. She questioned these polices and emphasized the need to integrate power with development in order to make equity in the world order.
She stressed that developing countries want to be involved in broad trade. In practice, they mainly export commodities, the prices of which have fallen by 50% in the last 50 years. “WTO rules are imbalanced,” she said. “If you use imbalanced rules, then you have imbalanced results.”
Ms. Oh affirmed that developing countries are in debt situations and they want commitments from developed countries.
Civil society has criticized trans-national companies for the lack of regulation; they are not working towards sustainable development. She posed the question: “How can we redress these issues as civil society? The second paradigm is now losing its
The last panelist, José María Cabeiro of the World Rural Forum, talked about the need for rural areas to be revived, otherwise the cultural traditions may disappear. Some areas, in fact, are cut off from trade in their own countries. “We don’t need to modernize every culture, “ he said. There is enough information from the farmers themselves—their infrastructure, their development of services- all of their knowledge to be preserved. Poverty is intense in rural areas. 75% of poor people live in in rural areas. He stressed that external debt has an effect on development. He suggested that globalisation should be oriented to the creation as well as to the distribution of wealth by among other channels, opening markets to developing countries’ products. He concluded by
saying, “When it is dark, you do not complain; but instead you light a candle.”
Presenters seemed to agree on several points:
- Canceling external debt for developing countries should be considered, as
it is a barrier for development. Once again, globalisation should be oriented to the creation as well as to the distribution of wealth by, among other channels, opening markets to developing countries’
- Promote the spread of knowledge in southern countries, for instance by fair technology transfers and
- Assessment of situation in developing countries prior to increasing liberalised trade by WTO members.
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