Alþjóðavæðingin étur börnin sín

Á ég ekki bara að skúbba Múrinn: I was wrong. Free market trade policies hurt the poor.

Þetta er nokkuð athyglisverð grein skrifuð í helsta helgirit vinstrimanna á Íslandi, The Guardian. Greinin er skrifuð af Stephen Byers, fyrrum viðskiptaráðherra Bretlands. Hann segist áður hafa stutt að fullu fullkomlega opið markaðshagkerfi í þróunarlöndunum en hefur nú skipt um skoðun og segist vilja að þróunarlöndin verndi iðnaðinn sinn á meðan iðnaðurinn í viðkomandi löndum er að þróast.

As leader of the delegation from the United Kingdom, I was convinced that the expansion of world trade had the potential to bring major benefits to developing countries and would be one of the key means by which world poverty would be tackled.

In order to achieve this, I believed that developing countries would need to embrace trade liberalisation. This would mean opening up their own domestic markets to international competition. The thinking behind this approach being that the discipline of the market would resolve problems of underperformance, a strong economy would emerge and that, as a result, the poor would benefit. This still remains the position of major international bodies like the IMF and World Bank and is reflected in the system of incentives and penalties which they incorporate in their loan agreements with developing countries. But my mind has changed.

A different approach is needed: one which recognises the importance of managing trade with the objective of achieving development goals.

Og hann heldur áfram

Rich nations may be prepared to open up their own markets, but still keep in place massive subsidies. The quid pro quo for doing this is that developing countries open up their domestic markets. These are then vulnerable to heavily subsidised exports from the developed world.

The course of international trade since 1945 shows that an unfettered global market can fail the poor and that full trade liberalisation brings huge risks and rarely provides the desired outcome. It is more often the case that developing countries which have successfully expanded their economies are those that have been prepared to put in place measures to protect industries while they gain strength and give communities the time to diversify into new areas.

This is not intervention for the sake of it or to prop up failing enterprises, but part of a transitional phase to create strong businesses that can compete on equal terms in the global marketplace without the need for continued protection.

Just look at some examples. Taiwan and South Korea are often held out as being good illustrations of the benefits of trade liberalisation. In fact, they built their international trading strength on the foundations of government subsidies and heavy investment in infrastructure and skills development while being protected from competition by overseas firms.

Zambia and Ghana are both examples of countries in which the opening up of markets has led to sudden falls in rates of growth with sectors being unable to compete with foreign goods. Even in those countries that have experienced overall economic growth as a result of trade liberalisation, poverty has not necessarily been reduced.

Hann endar svo með skilaboðum til Alþjóðabankans

The way forward is through a regime of managed trade in which markets are slowly opened up and trade policy levers like subsidies and tariffs are used to help achieve development goals.

The IMF and World Bank should recognise that questions of trade liberalisation are the responsibility of the WTO where they can be considered in the overall context of achieving poverty reduction and that it is therefore inappropriate to include trade liberalisation as part of a loan agreement.

Þetta eru athyglisverðir punktar hjá Byers, þrátt fyrir að ég sé ekki sammála öllu, sem hann segir. Hann leggur til dæmis ekki nóga áherslu á mikilvægi þess að ríku löndin felli niður sína tollamúra fyrir vörur frá þróunarlöndunum. Gríðarlegir tollar á landbúnaðarvörum eyðileggja tækifæri fyrir fátækustu löndin til að koma sínum helstu framleiðsluvörum á markað. Framsóknarmenn í öllum löndum eiga einna mestan heiður af því að viðhalda fátækt í heiminum.