Don McKinnon: Trade is a potent tool in combating global poverty

From a speech by the Commonwealth Secretary General, given at Marlborough House, in London

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Trade is a political issue. No deal will ever be reached - and even less, implemented - without real, sustained, political impetus.

Trade is a political issue. No deal will ever be reached - and even less, implemented - without real, sustained, political impetus.

Traditionally, people tend to view trade issues being resolved by negotiators trading off between the blue box and the amber box and so on. The current Doha round is partly about that. But ultimately, a successful outcome depends on political decisions being taken at the highest level. Trade negotiations are conducted by officials, but they are driven by leaders.

There is another reason why trade is a political issue. Trade is one of the most effective tools in the fight against global poverty. And by reducing poverty, by tackling the growing gap between the rich and the poor, we pave the way to a more stable world.

In particular, trade negotiators everywhere need to take off their blinkers and become more aware of the security and development implications of their positions. A trade deal that might appear to be in the immediate economic interest of a country could very well harm the long-term security interests of the world. To avoid this, national trade policies should not be developed in a silo, but should feed into security and development priorities.

Moreover, trade can prove an antidote against conflict. If the stability of your economy and the well-being of your population depend on trading with your neighbour, you will think twice about going to war with them.

European leaders, after the Second World War, understood this: with the establishment of the European Economic Community, they linked their economies together through trade so they wouldn't go to war again. By further integrating our economies and developing closer trade relationships, we can reduce the risk of political, religious and ethnic conflict.

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