Globalisation - Solutions
Trade rules between countries are necessary but the form that these rules take must respect local, national and regional laws, and take into account social and cultural needs and environmental protection.
There needs to be a fundamental change in the world's trading system. Trade organisations must do more than pay lip service to issues such as sustainable development, equity and human rights.
The WTO is obsessed with economics and growth at all cost. Its track record on the environment is poor and the WTO should not be making decisions that directly or indirectly affect the environment. Economic decisions should promote sustainable development.
Governments of all nations must have the right to:
To reduce the considerable environmental damage caused by transportation society should attempt to produce what it needs locally. Where local supplies do not or cannot meet demand, perhaps because of a lack of raw materials or suitable climate, then society needs to trade.
Government policies and public subsidies must stay in place to protect the environment, livelihoods and the rights of producers, and help guarantee food security. We must modify the concept of free trade to encompass these social and environmental needs. In its extreme form, free trade is not a desirable goal if it inhibits the supply of food to the hungry or undermines the livelihoods of small farmers in developing countries.
Economic and environmental management should be combined. They are linked but they are not equal in stature. Currently the environment is subordinate to economic policy. But that must change. We have reached the limits of growth and economics should ensure sustainable development not continued growth.
We should protect biological, cultural, economic and social diversity. We need to enable minorities and cultures to maintain their unique identities.
Local businesses versus giant international monopolies
The WTO should consider the impact of its economic policies at a local and national level, particularly with respect to cultural and agricultural diversity.
We should introduce policies that support local economies and trade. We need to support national self-determination.
We need to protect small and medium sized local businesses and farms against take-over by transnationals and the creation of global monopolies.
Multilateral treaties on the environment, human rights, labour and social issues should take precedence over WTO global trade rules. If any of these issues arise then there should be no grounds for trade disputes. Only when it can be proved that a country is discriminating against imported products or services purely for economic gains, and their discrimination serves no purpose should there be viable grounds for trade penalties.
The Tobin tax, named after James Tobin, a liberal US economist, is a 1% levy on cross-frontier movements of capital, the proceeds of which would be used to aid development of poor countries. 170 deputies in the French Assembly have voted for its introduction to the World Trade Organisation rules. Write to your government ministers to support this proposal.
Decision making bodies like the WTO must become more inclusive. People must be better informed about what is being decided and have the right to influence the decision making process. Trade commitments such as GATS require a consultation process involving different groups and occurring at many different levels. We are all stakeholders in globalisation.
We need to expand democratic decision making processes on many levels and with particular emphasis on improving the transparency of the trading system.
Code of conduct
We need a binding code of conduct for transnational corporations. The United Nations should be the overseer of negotiations towards this end.
We need fair trade, not free trade. Social and labour rights should be protected, including the rights of children.
Developed countries have a technological advantage over developing countries and people living in developed countries are generally much wealthier than those living in developing countries. If this imbalance is to be corrected then trade rules need to reflect these inequalities. Trade rules need to reflect the weaker position of developing countries. Trading should be based upon principles of fairness. Many developing countries have been colonised and exploited for centuries by countries that are now part of the developed world - Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and Holland. Many developing countries are massively in debt to the developed countries and are ensnared in an interest payment scam that bleeds their economy and limits their development. The developed world has an obligation to the developing world and the world trading system must allow for this.
Culture and food
Globalisation should not mean the domination by North American culture of all other cultures. It should respect cultures and seek to maintain cultural diversity including languages. People define food according to their own cultural norms. Trade rules should allow each cultural group to grow and consume from a wide variety of foods according to its own definition of food. Access to food should be a basic human right.
Patents and agriculture
Intellectual property patents on medicines must be limited to a period of time, which enables companies to recoup research costs but not jeopardise public health and safety. When drugs are needed urgently as in the case of AIDS drugs, pharmaceutical companies should be paid out quickly for their research efforts and the drug made available. In developing countries too poor to afford these drugs market regulations should facilitate their unconditional availability. Poverty should not be an obstacle to saving lives.
The patenting of genes and life forms should cease immediately. Genes, seeds, micro-organisms and nature's chemicals belong to everyone. The private appropriation of life should not be part of any trade agreement. The traditional knowledge of Aboriginals and native Indian groups must remain in the public domain.
Sustainable systems of agriculture such as permaculture and those practised by indigenous peoples must be exempted from international trade rules.
Trade groups need to phase out subsidies spent on export oriented industrial farmers particularly in the US. These subsidies are maintained by the very same trade groups that profess to follow a free market ideology. They are contradictory and show the selective nature which these groups apply the economics. They cause great hardship to smaller farmers.
We need to trade to live but our system of trade should serve the interests of all. We need rules based on the principles of cooperation, equity, democratic control of resources, ecological sustainability and precaution.
We should create a socially just and sustainable trading framework.
We should have a moratorium on further trade liberalisation initiatives.
Fundamental individual, social and environmental rights must not be compromised nor over-ridden by WTO rules and other commercial agreements. Environmental sustainability, food, water, education, health and safety and other social services are critical to human and planetary welfare.
The WTO should adopt a precautionary approach when considering the effects of its policies on the environment.
Either we must reduce the power and authority of the WTO or we must reform the WTO to be open and an instrument of all the people.
We need a retrospective review of the impact that WTO agreements have had on the environment, development, health, and other social issues.
Alternatives to free market capitalism should be explored which may be better suited to different cultures.
Trade rules should require all groups who engage in trade to respect the rights of local communities and protect the environment. The United Nations should be given more power to ensure social and environmental needs are not undermined by economic decisions.
We believe that some level of trade liberalisation is desirable. Trade liberalisation is preferable to total protectionism and is preferable to trade blocks like NAFTA and EU, competing against each other. The sort of trade liberalisation we want is one which includes rules that protect local communities and the environment. It would be preferable if individual governments committed some sectors for liberalisation rather than, as proposed in current WTO negotiations, liberalisation covering all sectors except where a government negotiates to be exempt.
In trade negotiations, governments give too much time and pay too much attention to the demands of corporations and their lobby organisations and not enough attention to other NGOs and civil society in general. When trade rules conflict directly with local, national and international environmental laws, the trade rules usually favour the corporations. These imbalances need to be changed.
Trade and investment are currently viewed as ends in themselves but they should be seen in a much wider context. Trade rules must reflect society's needs and not just the needs of the major corporations. Trade should benefit all people, their livelihoods and the resources upon which they depend. There must be fundamental changes to the trading system so that it serves all of society including environmental pressure groups, labour and human rights groups and people in developing countries. Trade should be a means to an end and not an end in itself. Trade should be part of a greater system and not dominate politics.
Capitalism is rooted in western culture and psychology. It is not the only economic system and it does not suit all cultures. Cultures that do not foster competitiveness, materialism and private ownership may be better off with a different system.
The current economic system has failed to deliver a better life for millions of people in the developing world and it should be replaced before it completely destroys the environment.