GLOBAL TRADE; WHO'S HELPED? WHO'S STILL HURTING?
[A review of an article in "America" 12/12/05 by Rev. Andrew Small, O.M.I., foreign policy advisor to the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops and Vatican delegate to the Dec. World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong]
National and international concerns for the poor is made visible in donations to victims of tsunami, Katrina, earthquake and HIV/AIDS and by cancellation of the debts of 19 very poor nations. But negatively, "the poor are getting poorer, and the gap between the rich and poor is getting wider." The combined wealth of the 500 richest people in the world is greater than that of the 416 million poorest. Ten percent of the globe earns over 50% of the world's income; 40% earn 5%.
[The Hong Kong meeting ended in deadlock, the big hang-up being over trade terms afforded poor countries. Rich countries were reluctant to reduce barriers (tariffs, quotas and subsidies) to the entry of products - esp. agricultural - from poor nations.]
About 1.3 billion people in developing nations are engaged in agriculture. They'd be better off if they had a market to sell what they grow or make. Unfortunately, tariffs tend to be highest on the products that poor people and poor countries produce: agricultural commodities and garments, footwear and food products. (The author says you can sell peanuts but don't try to sell peanut butter.} "Thus Bangladesh (annual per capita income $440) pays more in tariffs than France (annual per capita income $24,000), even though France sells 15 time more goods than Bangladesh.)
Fr. Small suggests there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Trade strategies should be accommodated to the particular needs and circumstances of individual countries and there must be flexible policies to meet changing conditions.
Readers who feel that trade policies and treaties should work to promote the common good and the well-being of all [or at least of more] are urged to write Congress and the administration. Investors [some 70 million households in the U.S.] can influence their companies to act in a socially responsible mode and, while doing well, do good also.
[From "The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" #364: "The Church's social doctrine has time and again called attention to aberrations in the system of international trade which often, owing to protectionist policies, discriminates against products coming from poorer countries and hinders the growth of industrial activity in and the transfer of technology to these countries. The continuing deterioration in terms of the exchange of raw materials and the widening of the gap between rich and poor countries has prompted the social Magisterium to point out the importance of ethical criteria that should form the basis of international economic relations: the pursuit of the common good and the universal destination of goods, equity in trade relationships, and attention to the rights and needs of the poor in policies concerning trade and international cooperation. Otherwise 'the poor nations remain ever poor while the rich ones become still richer.'"]