Holy See Proposes Ethical Guidelines for International Trade

Note Published as WTO Conference Opens in Mexico

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The world market should strive for a genuinely human development capable of surmounting "national interests" in order to foster the good of the "family of nations," says the Holy See.



On Wednesday, in the framework of the 5th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization taking place in Cancun, Mexico, the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano published a note of the Holy See on "Ethical Guidelines for International Trade."

The document, published in English, states that an "ethical discernment in the context of international trade must be based upon the principle of the inalienable value of the human person, source of all human rights and every social order."

"The human being must always be an end and not a means, a subject and not an object, not a commodity of trade," says the document. The note was not signed by any specific organization of the Roman Curia.

"Economic freedom is only one element of human freedom and the economy is only one dimension of the whole of human activity," the note explains. "Economic life cannot be absolutized. Economic activities must be pursued within a broader context of human development, the promotion of human rights, and especially overarching policies and targets aimed at eliminating poverty."

The Cancun conference seeks to evaluate the multilateral trade negotiations which began in the conference of Doha, Qatar, in November 2001.

The Holy See note warns of the "prevailing of national interests in current trade negotiations, despite all the declarations of respect for the development targets of the poor countries."

This attitude "does not serve the idea of a 'family of nations,' which is by nature a community based on mutual trust, mutual support and sincere respect," the text says. "In an authentic family the strong do not dominate; instead the weaker members because of their very weakness, are all the more welcomed and served."

"The challenge" the Holy See presents to the Cancun conference "is to create a legal framework for trade which gives developing countries both the economic surplus and the political autonomy to achieve human development goals, while respecting legitimate concerns regarding labor, social and environmental standards."

"For the Holy See, the multilateral trade system will have been truly accomplished when poor countries are able to integrate fully into the international community," it states.

The Vatican presents six proposals for the World Trade Organization to achieve this objective:

-- "To establish a human development oriented trade system, WTO must take greater stock, on a country-by-country basis, of how each WTO agreement, along with its implementing costs and capacity requirements, affects the human development policies of the poorer countries."

-- "The world trade regime should support the development agenda of poor countries."

-- "In any economic sector, including the international trade system, a rules-based approach is in place precisely to protect the weakest. Reforms in market access for products of poorer countries (agriculture, textiles, etc.) cannot be put aside indefinitely."

-- "Today the nations involved in the international trade system are far from equal. … Greater flexibility in policy-making must be enjoyed by developing countries in a context of open markets in developed countries for their exports."

-- "While market access facilitates a level of development, it is not sufficient in itself and needs to be complemented by asymmetric rules. Due to falling commodity prices and specialization in products, poor countries presently gain substantially less from trade than do industrial countries. At the same time they are unable to compensate domestic entities suffering due to increased openness of the domestic market."

-- "No model of economic growth or international trade that neglects social justice or marginalizes human groups and human development is sustainable in the long-term, even from the purely economic point of view."

The document concludes stating: "Political and economic relations between nations and peoples need to be built on a new basis. Self-interest and efforts to reinforce positions of dominance must be left aside. Developing nations should be assisted, by means of special trade conditions to become true partners in a more just international."

The Cancun conference ends Sunday.