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Harnessing Trade for Development

Harnessing Trade for Development

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Published by Oxfam
World trade rules have been developed by the rich and powerful on the basis of their narrow commercial interests. Rich countries and powerful corporations have captured a disproportionate share of the benefits of trade, leaving developing countries and poor people worse off. Trade rules should be judged on their contribution to poverty reduction, respect for human rights, and environmental sustainability.
World trade rules have been developed by the rich and powerful on the basis of their narrow commercial interests. Rich countries and powerful corporations have captured a disproportionate share of the benefits of trade, leaving developing countries and poor people worse off. Trade rules should be judged on their contribution to poverty reduction, respect for human rights, and environmental sustainability.

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Published by: Oxfam on Apr 12, 2011
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02/08/2013

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Oxfam Briefing Paper 
HarnessingTrade for Development
World trade rules have been developed by the rich and powerfulon the basis of their narrow commercial interests. Richcountries and powerful corporations have captured adisproportionate share of the benefits of trade, leavingdeveloping countries and poor people worse off. Trade rulesshould be judged on their contribution to poverty reduction,respect for human rights, and environmental sustainability.
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Harnessing Trade for Development, August 2001
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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:
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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.
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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:
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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.
 
Harnessing Trade for Development, August 2001
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Expanding the WTO negotiating agenda to include a range of newissues would overstretch the capacity of many developing countrieswhich are already struggling to participate effectively in the WTO processand implement their existing WTO commitments. It would also distractattention from the priority development issues that need to be addressedwithin the context of negotiations already underway.
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Industrialised countries have consistently failed to demonstrate sufficientpolitical will to address the concerns of developing countries about theimbalances in existing agreements. Until they do so, it is inappropriate todiscuss the launch of a comprehensive new round.
The liberalisation debate
Growth in international trade flows has been accompanied by growinginequalities between and within countries. Policies guided by the theory of trade liberalisation, and trade rules that regulate only governmentinterventions, fail to take account of social and environmental costs and of market failures that arise, for example, from the concentration of marketpower in the hands of a small number of private corporations. Poor men andwomen are most likely to lose out from trade reform because they lack theresources and skills necessary to participate in markets on beneficial terms.
Key areas of WTO reform
Industrialised countries and their powerful corporations have securedimbalanced WTO agreements and a disproportionate share of the benefits of trade, at the expense of developing countries and people living in poverty.This paper outlines Oxfam’s proposals for changes in WTO agreementsrelating to agriculture, market access, and intellectual property. It alsoproposes changes to WTO policy-making processes and to the way in whichthe WTO relates to other international institutions and agreements. It doesnot present a comprehensive Oxfam statement on trade and poverty, butcovers those issues on which Oxfam plans to carry out advocacy work in thenear future.
Agriculture
The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) is the most blatant example of rich-country double standards and hypocrisy at the WTO. Agricultural productionor employment provides a livelihood for the majority of poor men and womenin many developing countries. Yet the ‘special and differential’ provisions inthe AoA focus on helping industrialised countries continue their existingsystems of agricultural subsidies, rather than enabling poor countries tosecure their populations’ right to food and sustainable livelihoods, or topromote other important national development objectives.Agricultural support to farmers in the European Union and the USA hasdevastating implications for poverty-reduction efforts, not least becauseagricultural growth is a strong determinant of overall growth and povertyreduction in poor countries. Subsidised EU and US produce is frequentlydumped on international markets with the help of additional export-specificsupports. These products create unfair competition in world markets,depriving developing countries of market share and foreign exchange.

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