It has been a while since Dr. Robert Aboagye-Mensah of the Christian Council of Ghana famously commented,
“International trade between my country and the West is like an antelope and a giraffe competing for food which is at the top of a tree. You can make the ground beneath their feet level, but the contest will still not be fair.”
It is seven years since WTO first met in Doha, acknowledging that international trade was not only unfair but structurally imbalanced – or unfair by design. That acknowledgment makes it surprising that in 2008 there is still disagreement on the most fundamental aspect of the Doha Talks – the $48 billion agricultural subsidies the US was giving its farmers.
These subsidies – which in some cases offer higher daily ‘revenue’ to farm animals than people in Africa and Asia earn – prevent the developing countries from trading fairly with developed nations. Fair trade has the potential to lift these developing countries out of extreme poverty and perpetuating that imbalance is therefore criminal.
As the editorial in the Herald Tribune of the 25th July convincingly explains, there is greater need than ever for a successful outcome to the Doha Round today. The massive demonstration of consumer goodwill towards poor producers and greater fairness in trade is ample evidence that the Western public want to address the issue. Politics is quite another thing of course, but let’s hope that they are only kidding, and that recent disagreements amongst the major members of WTO will not bring the vital initiatives discussed at Doha to an useless end.