Harnessing Trade for Development, August 2001
Executive Summary and PolicyProposals
International trade can be a force for poverty reduction by overcoming local,national, and regional scarcity, and by creating livelihoods and employmentopportunities. However, rich countries and powerful corporations havecaptured a disproportionate share of the benefits of trade, while developingcountries and poor men and women have been left behind or made worseoff. This is because world trade rules have been developed by the rich andpowerful on the basis of their narrow commercial interests. Governments andcompanies who preach the virtues of free trade the loudest are the mostguilty of practising protectionism when it suits them.Trade has a role to play in narrowing the gap between the winners and losersfrom global economic integration. But trade, and trade liberalisation as ameans of promoting trade, is not a panacea for poverty any more thanprotectionism. Trade policies, rules, and institutions should be devised andjudged on the basis of their contribution to poverty reduction, respect for human rights, and environmental sustainability. This paper focuses on someaspects of international trade rules and policy-making processes that Oxfambelieves require urgent reform in order to redirect the world trade regimetowards the achievement of these goals. The paper also sets out Oxfam'sposition on a new round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations.Oxfam supports:
A multilateral rules-based trade system, which is needed to managetrade in the interests of poverty reduction and sustainable development.Such a system is in the interests of developing countries because ithelps to protect them against unfair unilateral trade practices of morepowerful trading partners.
All WTO negotiations guided by, and judged against, the principles of poverty eradication, respect for human rights, and environmentalsustainability. This implies the need for an independent review of thesocial and environmental impacts of the Uruguay Round, and for assessments of the likely social and environmental impacts of any futureWTO agreements. Oxfam opposes the launch of a ‘comprehensive’ new WTO roundincorporating a range of new issues (such as investment, competition, andgovernment procurement) until previous commitments have been honouredand imbalances in existing agreements addressed. In particular, Oxfambelieves that:
The key changes needed to address the imbalances in existing WTOagreements, that would have a significant positive impact on the situationof people living in poverty, do not require the launch of a new round.They can be achieved in the short term within the context of the WTO‘built-in’ negotiations on agriculture, the mandated reviews of the TradeRelated Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement and disputesettlement agreements, and the General Council Special Sessions onthe implementation of existing agreements.