Letter: Unfair trade

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Sir: The World Trade Organisation has put the goal of improved trade with developing countries high on its agenda. Trade has the potential to generate jobs, income, and growth. But whether trade can effectively reduce poverty depends largely on how it is regulated in the sectors in which the poorest people work.

According to the United Nations, developing countries lose about $700bn a year as a direct result of protectionist measures which penalise Third World exporters. This figure is 14 times higher than the total aid flow to developing countries each year.

Rich nations have set tariffs on imports from developing countries at 30 per cent higher than the global average. These discriminatory practices are especially common in agriculture and textiles, which are the sources of income for many of the poorest people on earth.

In 1960 the poorest billion people earned 2.3 per cent of world income. Today, despite vastly increased global trade, they earn 1.1 per cent. So much for enabling poor people in developing countries to work their way out of poverty.

A level playing field is a bare minimum if the world's poor are to have any chance of benefiting from increased global trade. The challenge for ministers in Seattle is to show the political will needed to set a new course toward more equitable trade.


Victoria, British Columbia, Canada