In the wake of the devastating tsunami that parts of Asia in December, the World Trade Organization’s Supachai Panitchpakdi urged developed nations to lower trade barriers with nations hit by the tsunami.
How pathetic. The developed world should eliminate their ridiculous trade barriers with developing nations permanently. Such barriers have done far more long-term damage to the developing world than the tragic — but one-time — horrors created by the December 2004 tsunami.
Along with further worsening poverty in those countries, trade barriers directly contribute to corruption and other problems in developing nations by making it difficult for enterprising individuals to succeed in the market.
Anti-free traders shouldn’t worry, however — special interest groups here in the United States were quick to defend their particular fiefdoms from liberalization.
Deborah Long, the hack in charge of speaking for the Southern Shrimp Alliance, argued that suspending duties on Asian shrimp imports would be unfair. Lloyd Woods, who serves the same role with the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, argued that the best way to help Sri Lanka, Thailand and India wasn’t to eliminate textile tariffs against those country, but rather impose import quotes on Chinese textiles!
Straight from the land of the tariff and the home of the scared s–tless by the prospect of truly free trade.
Rich nations are urged to ease trade with affected countries. Elizabeth Becker, The New York Times, January 15, 2005.
In January, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka signed a free trade zone agreement that will start to bring trade barriers between those countries down beginning in 2006.
The agreement calls on the most developed of these countries — Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka — to virtually eliminate tariffs with the other countries by 2013, but gives the other countries until 2016 to lower their tariffs. There is, however, a provision that allows countries to maintain a list of “sensitive” products on which tariffs can be maintained.
Beyond advancing the cause of free trade, the real importance of this pat is the shot in the arm it could give to trade between Pakistan and India. Currently, trade between the two rivals is estimated at about $1.5 billion. That could double under the free trade regimen. And, of course, the more the two countries become economically intertwined, the higher the cost (and hence, the lower the risk) of war between them.
According to the BBC, there are now more than 200 regional free trade agreements.
South Asia ‘agrees to free trade’. The BBC, January 2, 2004.
South Asia signs free trade pact. Reuters, January 6, 2004.
Sri Lanka announced this month that its 2002-03 rice crop will hit a record high of 1.93 million metric tons, representing an increase in output of 15 percent over 2001-2002’s rice crop.
Why the huge increase in rice production? Largely because of a cease fire between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. Without having to worry about becoming victims in the war between the groups, farmers were able to put into cultivation rice paddys that had lain unused for 20 years.
According to Sri Lanka’s Agricultural Ministry, the total amount of land devoted to rice cultivation increased by 20 percent in just a single year. More than 100,000 hectares of farm land are believed to have been made available by the cessation of hostilities.
It’s amazing what can be accomplished when peace prevails.
‘Record rice harvest’ for Sri Lanka. The BBC, June 4, 2003.