Editorial 2 – The WTO
This edition contains a centre page supplement on the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It is not for us to add here anything about the organisation except to say that we have opposed its development, for a host of reasons, since its inception. Its worship of the god of money is its most fundamental flaw. Its lack of protection for workers by way of conditions and wages, and its institutionalisation of poverty are huge obstacles.
The Church has been a sharp critic of the WTO. Bishop Diarmuid Martin, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, says that poor countries do not have the same access to resources or capacity to negotiate as rich countries. In order to make the global marketplace fair as well as competitive, poor countries should be given certain fundamental guarantees, allowing them to retain their best outlets for economic development.
As a concrete example, he suggested the wealthy countries should avoid projectionist measures in the agriculture and textile sectors, in which poor countries can be most competitive. In agriculture, the rich countries invest $US350 billion a year in efforts to protect their own farm industries by subsidising exports. As a result, agricultural products are sold at artificially low prices in the Third World, undermining the local agricultural economy.
According to United Nations data, the losses suffered by developing countries as a result of protectionism are around $US700 billion. ‘That is why even the cancellation of foreign debt is useless, if markets fail to open to the products of poor countries. (NZ Catholic, 19 December 1999)
The CW vision of small and local wherever possible stands in stark contrast to any notion of globalisation. The protection of the common good and respect for people has a far greater chance of being achieved when basic units of society are small and manageable. This was the consistent message of Peter Maurin. It is a message that remains applicable today.