Trade - just, open, and green

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Trade - just, open, and green

Vanessa Baird writes about ways to better global trade.


People often say that the situation after the War - liberalism and international co-operation in the world - is coming to an end. Selfish nationalism, populism, and protectionism are the reasons why.

But we can also say that selfish nationalism, populism, and protectionism have been with us for some time. Free-market fundamentalism, privatization, and deregulation have been ending social liberalism for many years. The ideas of Trump and Brexit are the results of all of this.

We can try to keep things as they were or we can create something better.

So what could better global trade look like?

Here is part of a plan for just, open and green trade:

1 Trade is for and about people. Trade should improve people’s lives. International trade agreements should not stop human rights. Governments should have trade deals to help development, employment, food security, education, and healthcare. Trade agreements should not stop public ownership in important areas such as public health, education, and transport.

2 Trade must not be more important than the environment and climate goals and stopping global warming. Trade should reduce investment in fossil fuels and should encourage renewable, climate-saving technologies, agro-ecological, and organic farming. It will involve localization and creation of domestic and regional markets. Trade deals must make sure all imported food, goods. and services meet strong domestic safety and environmental rules, and international biodiversity and endangered species rules.

3 Strong labour and wage standards should be included in trade deals. The International Labour Organization (ILO) says that deals with strong labour rights increase the value of trade. Trade should protect skilled jobs and human, gender, and workers’ rights. There should be a minimum wage.

4 Trade rules should not increase the cost of life-saving medicines by giving pharmaceutical companies monopolies on drugs.

5 There must be a clear and open democratic negotiating process with no privileges for corporate lobbyists and industry associations. At the moment many trade deals and contracts are not clear and open to everyone.

6 Privileges for big corporations in trade and tax must end. They have a very big global market share. One per cent of exporting firms accounted for 57 per cent of country exports in 2014. But they can also make a lot of money by having a company’s tax base in low-tax areas. US companies make more money from small Luxembourg and Bermuda than from large markets like China and Germany.

7 Trade alone cannot stop poverty. It can help to take people out of poverty. It can also create poverty. Trade should encourage duty-free and quota-free access for exports from the world’s least-developed countries.

8 Investor rights must be stopped. At the moment they give corporations unlimited power to sue governments regulating for the public good.

9 Stop bullying. Powerful countries such as the US, the EU, and China often bully weaker countries. For example, trade deals with African countries have included threats not to give them development aid or investment. And a weaker, isolated Britain after Brexit could also be forced to open its National Health Service to, for example, US commercial interests. Often the use of trade sanctions – such as US sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, or Cuba are there for political reasons to destroy the economy of a country with different ideas and politics.

10 The world needs to stop the power of the big internet companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. These companies stop competition and create global inequality. Regulating these companies is important so that developing countries can gain from e-commerce.

11 Not all trade is good and more trade is not always better. Some trade should not happen at all, like trade in arms to countries that violate human rights. Not all investment is good. For example, Britain enjoyed record inward foreign investment in 2018. But much of it was mergers that lost thousands of jobs.

12 Fair Trade is a small part of global trade, but it is an important model for trade that is direct, ethical, does not exploit workers, and pays producers a fair price. Fair-trade food, cotton, and handicrafts have increased and may continue to increase.


(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)