New trade round should promote inclusion not exclusion

  • 18 November 1999

The trade ministers of South Africa and Sweden want an imbalance in priorities in earlier trade rounds to be corrected in favour of developing countries in a new negotiating round of the World Trade Organization.

Writing in the “Personal View” column of the Financial Times, the ministers say that despite remarkable improvements in living standards, the majority of the world’s people still do not enjoy the benefits of economic progress and many actually experience impoverishment.

“This is a situation that is fraught with danger. The challenge of development will have to be a top priority for a new negotiating round.”

The ministers, Alex Erwin of South Africa and Leif Pagrotsky of Sweden, say that if the legitimate concerns of producers from developing countries are not addressed, confidence in WTO rules could be undermined. “If free trade is a good idea when it comes to industrial goods that countries in Europe and America can sell, why shouldn’t it be an equally good idea for food and clothing – goods that developing countries can sell?”

“Good WTO rules should help end the marginalization of the world’s poorest countries,” the two ministers write. “In a new round, everyone must be given the capacity to participate and we should create rules that promote inclusion and not exclusion.”