Better deal on trade sought for developing countries

  • 5 November 1999

The need for an agenda for the forthcoming trade round that gives developing countries a better deal is a recurring theme in commentaries published in the build-up to the World Trade Organization's ministerial conference opening in Seattle at the end of this month.

WTO Director General Mike Moore has just issued an Overview of Developments in the International Trading Environment in which he pleads for special attention to the needs of the less-developed countries.

Mr Moore notes that one thing that economists do agree about is the gains from trade. “From this perspective it should be a matter of enormous concern to us that the least-developed countries together, 48 countries, hold a share of no more than one-half of an one percent of world trade.”

A recent Financial Times editorial said that a better deal for the world’s poor countries is a matter not just of equity, but of politics. ” Most WTO countries are developing countries that are increasingly aware that there is strength in numbers, the newspaper added. “Unless they are convinced that there is something for them in a new round, it will be slow to take off.”

Otto Graf Lambsdorff, European chairman of the Trilateral Commission and a former German Economics Minister, in an FT article quotes figures to demonstrate that increased trade accounts for much of the development progress in emerging economies. He says that developing countries with open economies grew by 4.5% a year in the 1970s and 1980s, while those with closed economies grew by 0.7% per year.

Graf Lambsdorff: “Contrary to a demagoguery all too common in Europe these days, trade competition is not war. Indeed, it is the antidote to the wars that have wrecked this century. Trade can lead to war only when the rules of the game are not set clearly.”

Personal View, Financial Times, 20 October 1999

Mike Moore: “During the financial disturbances of 1997-98 the good sense of governments and WTO rules kept markets open, providing a critical base for recovery. Seldom have the gains from trade been so evident.”

Overview of Developments in the International Trading Environment, 3 November 1999

Peter Sutherland, founding Director General of the WTO: “The overall economic impact of globalization has undoubtedly been extremely positive. Increased trade and capital flows have generated gains in productivity and efficiency that are spurring growth and creating millions of jobs in advanced industries countries. For many middle-income and developing countries, globalization has opened the door to export-led industrialization. Foreign capital is building roads, airports, power plants and factories, and it is giving local entrepreneurs investment resources unavailable domestically.”

The Per Jacobsson Lecture, Washington, October 1998