Failing the world
by VICTOR FIORINI
(The Malta Independent, 1/8/2006)
The egoistic nature of the western world has revealed its ugly face once
more. In the midst of buzzwords such as the end of poverty, world leaders
have failed miserably in the fight to eradicate world poverty.
World poverty can never be addressed by charity on its own, no matter how
noble the acts are. The key is fair trade. It is long-term, sustainable and
equal trade relations between countries.
The last round of talks by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva have
collapsed due to the hard-headedness of the worlds biggest trading powers,
the European Union and the USA, over their farm subsidies. To make matters
worse, both are pointing fingers at each other.
Europe is claiming that the USA is not willing to compromise, while the USA
is accusing Europe of not opening up its market enough. Hanging somewhere in
the middle are thousands of people dying from hunger every day. But as long
as we divert the blame to the other culprit, theres no feeling of guilt.
The truth is that the two blocks are the perfect example of hypocrisy. While
the EU and USA expect developing countries to open up their markets to US
and EU products, both blocks still maintain heavy subsidies on agriculture,
and dump what is left from over-production on to Third World countries,
creating the most unfair form of competition possible to Third World
But hey, dont worry. WTO chief Pascal Lamy assured the general public that
the talks have not collapsed; they have merely been suspended. Im sure that
the Third World feels much more relieved. A sincere thank-you from all of
us, dear Pascal.
The talks had a bumpy start from the very beginning. The Doha round,
launched in November 2001 in Qatar, initiated a discussion on the cutting of
tariffs and opening up of markets from developing to rich countries. Back
then, concerned citizens around the world were sceptical from the very start
as to how far rich countries would go to help developing countries stimulate
These trade talks no longer serve as talks to eradicate poverty and trade
imbalance, but rather have become an inevitable process (which country dares
admit they do not care about world poverty) where rich countries can still
take something. And this is not in the give and take spirit, its in the
take, take and take some more spirit.
US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns admitted that the US will cut its
subsidies to US farmers, which inevitably puts the US product at an
advantage from the very start, only if it is guaranteed improved sales in
European and other markets. I understand the pressure on European markets,
but on other markets? What other markets? The Third World market, by any
chance? Is this what eradicating poverty is all about? Does the US perceive
third world citizens as humans, or as potential customers?
European trade chief Peter Mandelson said the EU is willing to slash its
import tariffs by 54 per cent, a substantial improvement from the original
39 per cent provided others make similar concessions how predictable.
Whatever happened to the idea of Europe taking the first step? It seems that
Europe will remain Europe, no hopes in the distant future as we can see.
Every day more than 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes one
child every five seconds. This is no longer a matter of opening up markets.
This is about opening our eyes wide open.
Victor Fiorini is International spokesman for Alternattiva Demokratika
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