Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Canada vs. Ethiopia

Remember the images of starving people in Ethiopia?

Remember that there have been recent news reports that the same is about to happen this winter?

And recall that many leading economists and political analysts have said that opening up trade for poor nations is far more valuable than all of the international aid spending put together.

Then ask our Canadian politicians why they are making life difficult for Ethiopia's request to join the World Trade Organization so it can realize the benefits of improved market access.

Fortune magazine, in a report on current World Trade negotiations, highlights the Ethiopian application and says "as was the case in 2008, the second working party meeting saw the usual suspects – the US, the EU, and Canada – challenging Ethiopia’s negotiators on issues such as pricing policies, import regulations, customs procedures, export restrictions, stare enterprises, and technical barriers to TRIPS, an overly employed term for 
trade, intellectual property, and services.

"But, the toughest demand comes on the issue of opening the financial and telecom sectors to foreign competition, a matter yet to be negotiated," says Fortune magazine.

It is shameful that Canada's Conservative ruling party and the leaders of the United States, Europe and Japan failed to agree to implement a deal that has already been worked out in Geneva to help the world's Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Another deal that should be easy to achieve and implement is disciplines on international food aid. Canada and most other countries - the U.S. is the notable exception - long ago adopted voluntary disciplines. Bringing those terms into the World Trade Organization would make them enforceable.

The political leaders of the wealthy nations claim they can't implement these agreements to benefit the poorest people of the world until there is agreement on an overall deal.

What that really means is that they are holding out for a deal that will enable their bankers and financial-services companies to move in on markets in these poor countries, and a deal to enforce patent rights for powerful companies, such as the pharmaceutical and internet giants.

Their argument about requiring an overall deal is nonsense.

At the same meeting, they boasted that they are close to deal to knock down barriers so foreign companies can bid on government contracts. If they can move ahead on that single issue, then they can move on the deal to benefits the poorest people in the poorest nations of the world.

It's time for Canadians to insist that its negotiating team work to implement the spirit of this round of world trade negotiations, which is to benefit the developing nations. Canadians need to realize that our negotiators, and those for the U.S., Europe and Japan, are responsible for the impasse because they are insisting on terms that will improve opportunities for our banks and are insisting on protecting every last detail of our sky-high trade barriers for dairy and poultry farmers.