Letter: Is free trade fair?

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I found the almost total condemnation by the media of the demonstrations in Seattle and London against the free-trade policies of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) quite astonishing ("Seattle under siege as riots mar summit", 1 December).

It was generally believed that one of the reasons that the riots and looting did not make sense was that trade is mutual exchange to mutual advantage, to rich or poor, big or small, north or south, and that both parties benefit from it. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

Many people other than the demonstrators would disagree with what seems a very narrow media view of free-trade policies. Free trade should never be confused with fair trade.

The free-trade agenda involves economic predominance over other nations by the financial looters of the West. On the other hand, the fair-trade doctrine endorses a standard whereby not only economic interests but the universal interests of nations are harmonious and not antagonistic.

The elitists who control the WTO are the same people who control the International Monetary Fund, lending money to Third World countries at usurious rates of interest, coupled with harsh conditions that ensure that these countries' debts spiral even more and that their citizens' quality of life worsens accordingly.

It is always advisable to be on guard when the financial elite of so- called donor countries use unassuming terms like "free trade" to describe evil trade.

WILLIAM BURNS

South Queensferry, Lothian

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