Free trade: a short term tactic that lacks strategic sense?

Devinder Sharma reports on the campaign by US President Obama, “a prisoner of the corporate world”, to complete the Doha Development Round, noting that Obama’s donors will be the real beneficiaries from further opening up India to so-called free trade.

Professor Radhika Balakrishnan, noting that the lead company in the entourage of 200 U.S. corporations with Obama is Walmart, asserts:

“A proliferation of Walmart in India is going to hurt small rural farmers and small sellers.” 

Unfortunately, Sharma writes, free trade is a clever term for an unjust and unethical trade paradigm that is economically unsound and benefits only the rich.
He quotes The Guardian’s article by Phillip Inman, setting out the message of Cameron, Merkel and the Murdoch-owned WSJ who are pressing for the lowering of India’s trade barriers, whilst subsidising their own exporters and levying import tariffs:  

“Free trade is a panacea for all the world’s ills. Not only does it give African and other poor nations access to European markets, they say, it also allows capital to flow to where it will be used most efficiently. So western countries will invest in poor countries where there are readily available pools of cheap labour and resources – not to exploit them, but to raise their living standards.” 

”Academic assessments agree that the Doha deal on the table will mostly benefit the world’s richest countries, along with certain export sectors in powerful developing countries.

”The World Bank’s analysis shows that 80% of gains from the Doha round will go to high-income economies, and that China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil will scoop up almost all the rest. Sub-Saharan nations and Bangladesh figure on the list of losers”

Inman concludes that the proposed Doha deal is ”another depressingly short term tactic that lacks strategic sense, unless we consider that the US president has allowed himself to be captured by the interests of big business and those countries, including our own, with an ever growing need for cheaper raw materials and virgin markets.  

“Let’s face it, this is what they mean by free trade . . . there is little reason to accept this kind of turbo-charged capitalism if you are poor or need to defend a welfare state that needs time to undergo reform.” 

Go to the whole article here.


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