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Monday, October 24, 2005

FAIRTRADE - Scot Lib Dem Motion

Conference rejects the increasing damage to third world farmers by the decision-making of western countries.

Conference therefore agrees to support and promote the aim at all governmental levels to give Fair Trade to all countries by adhering to the following set of principles:

1 Ending the use of conditions attached to IMF-World Bank programmes which force poor countries to open their markets regardless of the impact on poor people.
2 Improving market access for poor countries and ending the cycle of subsidised agricultural over-production and export dumping by rich countries. In addition, changing WTO rules so that developing countries can protect domestic food production.
3 Creating a new international commodities institution to promote diversification and end over-supply in order to raise prices to levels consistent with a reasonable standard of living for producers, and changing corporate practices so that companies pay fair prices.
4 Establishing new intellectual property rules to ensure that poor countries are able to afford new technologies and basic medicines and that farmers are able to save, exchange and sell seeds.
5 Prohibiting rules that force government to liberalise or privatise basic services that are vital for poverty reduction.
6 Democratising the World Trade Organisation to give poor countries a stronger voice.
Changing national policies on Health, Education and Governance so that poor people can develop their capabilities, realise their potential and participate in markets on more equitable terms.

I will support anything in the above relating to Western protectionism & the need to help the 3rd world. It is immoral that the average European cow receives a subsidy of £900 whereas the average Sierra Leonese lives on £300 a year.

However, sections 1 & 2 of the motion call for protectionism, particularly of "domestic food production". This is not a new idea. Britain used to do this until, with the rise of the urban working class & the Liberal Party, they were able to force the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1842. Since then Liberalism & free trade have been synonymous to everybody's benefit. Fairly free trade has worked for South Korea, Singapore & the US. Protectionism failed North Korea, Burma & Ethiopia. India, China & New Zealand all used to practice protectionism & had low growth. All have now moved to fairly free trade & have high growth.

To tell the people of the 3rd world that they will develop by protectionism is a cruel deception which runs counter to all historical experience.

Section 3 call for the creation of an OPEC style cartel for ALL other commodities specifically for the purpose of "raising prices" & "ending (over)-supply". What this means, on the ground, is that somebody somewhere is going to be physically prevented from making a living.

In the case of coffee, the primary target of the self-styled "fair trade" movement, this will be Vietnam. This country, which our ally bombed, if not "into the Stone Age" as they promised, certainly into generations of poverty, is now developing by, among other things, competing successfully in the international coffee market.

But if "over-supply" is to be prevented how will our cartel enforce renewed poverty on the people of Vietnam? By the use of Agent Orange perhaps for that is where this proposal leads.

The good intentions of the proposers are not in doubt but good intentions are not enough. We are talking about the lives of billions of people & we have to get it right. This motion does not do so & I ask you to reject it.


The original copy of the motion left out sections 5,6 & 7 so obviously I did not comment on them. However my position is not changed.

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