Remarks by Phil Bloomer, International

Remarks by Phil Bloomer, Head of Make Trade Fair Campaign, Oxfam
2004 Commitment to Development Index: Defining Global Leadership
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Well, first, I really congratulate the Center for this very important index. From a
perspective of Oxfam, there's a myriad of measures of developing countries' progress in
their current state, and yet there are far fewer measures of how much contribution the
industrialized countries are actually making to that progress. The Millennium
Development Goals set out by all the rich countries, the OECD club of industrialized
countries, are very clear on what they want to see as outcomes between now and 2015.
And so I think this is a very important tool for them to look at just how much they are
properly contributing to those goals which they've set for themselves for developing
countries' improvements.
From our perspective, what's critical is that the industrialized countries, the rich
countries of this world, commit themselves to a form of globalization which is genuinely
going to help the poor as well as the rich. And the current model is so often doing the
reverse of that, actually generating far greater levels of inequality in the world. What we
need are the means by which there can be a level of redistribution, but also a removal of
the kind of rules that actually prevent and hinder developing countries from being able to
advance. That's not to say, of course, that developing countries don't have the primary
responsibility for their own destiny.
One area of those rules is, of course, trade rules. And I would say that, hopefully,
the United States will be able to improve still further on its current performance in the
Index because of the--and thanks to--the World Trade Organization's ruling only two
days ago on cotton, which should be able to remove one of the most pernicious elements
of trade rules which allow the European Union and the United States to essentially
support highly inefficient farmers, high-cost farmers in their own countries, artificially
create enormous surpluses which cannot be consumed in their own countries and then
have to be dumped on world markets, depressing prices for low-cost producers in
developing countries who are, after all, only asking for a fair price for the product that
they produce and a fair return on their labors.
We have a situation in cotton where just 25,000 farmers in the United States are
receiving $4 billion of taxpayers money every year to produce cotton which is essentially
surplus and is then dumped on world markets, lowering the price for poor farmers in, for
instance, West Africa. At the same time, there are 10 million farmers in West Africa,
many of them living on $1 a day, that produce cotton at a far lower price--and often a
higher-quality cotton--and found themselves, at least until recently, basically having to
abandon their crops because they could not even begin to provide the three meals on the
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table and were taking their sons and daughters out of school through the lack of return on
their cotton crops.
Now, from my perspective, there can be a real double win here in the same way as
General Wesley Clark talks about. There's billions going from the U.S. taxpayers into
corporate welfare. That money, that's a policy choice that the U.S. government has made.
There's a real opportunity to shift that money from corporate welfare into public welfare.
At the same time, that same choice would help literally millions of some of the poorest
people on this planet to make the kind of livelihood that they require from trade, and
therefore also achieve the Millennium Development Goals which the United States, along
with all the other industrialized countries, have committed to.
Just a small point in terms of the Index. We're all allowed to make a little
niggling point. I'd just say that I think it's an excellent index and the--to go to
technology, which I know a member from the IMF will speak about, but it's very
important, I think, that there is a reward here for countries which are really involved in
technology transfer--technology is so vital to international competitiveness--to the
technology transfer and the investment in research and development. But I would
suggest that there has to be some penalty placed on those countries which are pursuing
the imposition of intellectual property rules which go beyond the World Trade
Organization's rules--and that's particularly the United States at the moment--in
developing countries.
The kind of implications of that are what we've seen in terms of people's access to
cheap genetic medicines, which is going to get worse unless those rules are changed; but
also, as Bhagwati has said, there is a real danger that these rules become little more than a
royalty collection operation for the rich countries from poor countries. So there's an issue
there, I think.
Finally, I'd just like to say that on security I think it's really important that the
Index has rewarded support of United Nations operations for global security in particular
because in these times it's so important that the multilateral system for the maintenance of
international peace and security is upheld through the United Nations.
Thank you.
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