Making Globalisation Inclusive of People: A Trade Union Perspective (The Mahbub-ul-Haq Memorial Lecture)

Publication Year : 2002

“The greatest tragedy is to treat the unequal as equal”, says Aristotle. In a different perspective, similar concerns have found an echo centuries later—” the free play of market forces between unequal trading partners would only punish poorer commodity exporters at the same time as it brings advantages to the rich industrial countries”.1 New modalities of participation for developing countries in the trading system were suggested decades ago to attack the persistent trade imbalance and to create essential external conditions for accelerating the rate of economic growth. These included: (1) guaranteeing price stabilisation and improving market access for primary exports; (2) allowing greater policy space to develop local industries and reducing barriers to their exports; (3) establishing more appropriate terms of accession to the multilateral system, and (4) reducing the burden of debt-servicing. The developments as unfolded over the years, and more so since 1990s, are found as largely drifting away from these assertions of yester years. Market access to the agricultural products still has to materialise. Greater policy space to developing countries almost stands abandoned. Debt burden of the developing poor countries, the HIPC initiative notwithstanding, remains at volatile level.