Holy See Proposes Fair Trade at the Service of People

Addresses World Trade Organization Conference in Cancun

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CANCUN, Mexico, SEPT. 15, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Days before talks at the World Trade Organization conference collapsed, the Holy See made an appeal in favor of genuinely human trade.



"All here present must remain faithful to the promises and commitments made to the poor in Doha," said Monsignor Frank Dewane, undersecretary of the Council for Justice and Peace, on behalf of the Holy See.

The Doha Round of trade negotiations, launched in November 2001 and expected to end before January 2005, aims to extend the liberalization of trade.

The Cancun meeting failed in this objective because of the division between rich and poor countries over issues such as the elimination of subsidies to agricultural exports and the reduction of internal supports of production.

"Trade should benefit people and not just markets and economies," Monsignor Dewane said last Friday. "Trade rules, therefore, notwithstanding their technical aspects, have a political and social nature, with deep and lasting consequences in the life of humanity."

The failure of Cancun is especially grave because, as the Vatican aide explained, it "is those often found in smaller economies who are most in need of an equitable, rules-based system of trade in which all can participate and benefit on the basis of the highest achievable equality of opportunity."

"But no set of rules is fair by itself," he added. "They must conform to the demands of social justice while enabling and fostering human development."

In particular, the priest encouraged greater commitment in the opening of exchanges of agricultural products, repeatedly requested by developing countries, in the face of policies of subvention and closure of markets of industrialized countries.

"Agricultural products that are staple foods and on which low-income and poor farmers are dependent should be given special consideration in the context of tariff reductions," the monsignor said. "These reductions in poor countries, along with effects of export subsidies and domestic supports in and dumping from developed countries, are particularly harmful for small farmers."

"Still, any temptation by developing countries toward a crude protectionist path should be avoided. A balancing mechanism is needed that will allow for an increase in small farmer production and productivity as well as for the growth of employment in rural areas," he stated.

"The issues of food security, basic standard of living and rural development are legitimate concerns in agricultural negotiations," Monsignor Dewane said. "Special safeguard mechanisms for poor countries must be developed allowing for temporary action when small farmers are threatened."

With regard to trade services, he said: "It has to be considered that the defense and preservation of certain common goods such as the natural and human environments cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces since they touch on fundamental human needs which escape market logic.

"Water, education and health, among others, have been traditionally a state responsibility and viewed as public goods. More efficient services can include involvement of the private sector, but set within a clear legislative framework with the goal of serving the public interest."

The Holy See's representative concluded by calling attention to "the particular needs of the African continent to experience the development that trade can provide."

"Africa today remains a continent at risk, fragile in terms of trade relations and the corresponding benefits," Monsignor Dewane said. "If the Doha Development Agenda is to be faithful to its mission, WTO must be solicitous about the needs of African countries."

"In the context of a 'family of nations,' those countries economically more developed can provide assistance that will allow for attainment of the development which corresponds to our shared human dignity," he said. "Precisely because people have been endowed with the same extraordinary dignity no one should be reduced to living without the benefits of trade."

As the Cancun conference got under way, the Holy See published the document "Ethical Guidelines for International Trade."