Trade Organization ~ Killing Farmers
media miss no opportunity to remind us of our political
apathy. General election turnouts are low; local council elections
even lower; we don’t hold politicians in high regard. So it is not surprising that politicians
believe that the ordinary man doesn't care much for politics. Strange, then, that so much interest is
shown in the underlying issues, as though politics and
social change were somehow not related.
the World Trade Organization holds its annual conference
the public protests en masse.
But the media has its own case of apathy, and what
was news in Seattle in 1999 is no longer worthy of headlines.
This year’s WTO ministerial conference in Cancun
produced its share of protests: on the opening day some
individuals taped their mouths, illustrating their voiceless
state; and South Korean farmer Kun Hai Lee declared that
WTO kills farmers, before committing ritual suicide. The WTO Secretariat missed the point,
merely expressing regret at Mr. Lee’s death from
only news that filtered out of the conference itself was
that no progress was made. After several of these gatherings, rich
nations are still unable or unwilling to reduce protectionism
and ease trading restrictions that would enable poor nations
become more self-reliant. Much better to perpetuate the state of
imbalance that leads to so much dissatisfaction and unrest;
much better to continue to sell western products that
poor nations cannot afford; much better to keep our heads
in the sands of ignorance.
basic issue is simple: is it morally right for the rich
to over-produce, over-consume, and maintain trade barriers
and subsidies that prevent poorer nations from competing?
Perhaps the WTO does not concern itself with morals;
after all, trade is about profit.
But the secondary issue is more quantifiable: does
it make economic sense to maintain this trading status
quo and then, periodically, write off loans that cannot
be repaid; provide humanitarian aid to nations facing
famine; and give military assistance to help suppress
internal violence. Not easy to calculate, but our profit-minded world traders
seem reluctant to even try.
with the issues of ethics and profit is that of international
terrorism. Bush and Blair seem obsessed with repelling
the tide of terrorists with military might and rhetoric. King Canute could have advised them on
repelling a tide.
But to understand the law of cause and effect is
to know that one cannot affect an outcome by treating
the symptoms. Terrorism
is conducted and encouraged by fanatics and extremists
but it stems from a sense of injustice felt by the masses. As long as our politicians and traders regard third world countries
as markets and cultures to be exploited this sense of
injustice will intensify.
trade barriers are dismantled some industries in rich
countries will suffer.
This is part of any economic cycle.
But as poorer countries become more self-sufficient
and less dependent on hand-outs the need for aid and loan
write-offs will reduce. As the imbalance between rich and poor nations lessens, so
will the need for big military budgets.
Rich nations will still be able to balance the
books. We need to accept that current world trade
kills farmers like Kun Hai Lee.
We need to recognize that we can do something about
it. And it helps to know that removing trade
barriers is the right thing to do: economically, morally,
and in the interests of world peace.
_ . _
'Author of O Lanoo! ~ an introduction to Blavatsky's The
Secret Doctrine, describing the evolution of the human
body and the human soul.
Director of Energy, All Limited, an organization
dedicated to bringing renewable energy to the people.'
of Harvey Tordoff