Magazine article International Trade Forum

Millennium Development Goals Work for Trade: Forum Magazine Interview with Eveline Herfkens

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Millennium Development Goals Work for Trade: Forum Magazine Interview with Eveline Herfkens

Article excerpt

Q What are the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)?

A These commit 189 countries to reach eight development goals by 2015. Heads of state made this commitment, under the auspices of the United Nations, in September 2000.

Q Why are these goals relevant to trade development?

A First, what is important is that governments committed themselves at the highest level. The voting public in their countries can hold them accountable.

Second, achieving these goals is either a precondition for trade or directly affects trade development. Reducing poverty (goal 1) concerns business, because development won't come about through handouts. Entrepreneurship will make he difference, through jobs and income. Tackling primary education, gender equality, environmental sustainability and health issues (goals 2 to 7) creates the conditions for private sector development and trade.

Commitment to an open trading system (part of goal 8) is most directly relevant. Two things to focus oil are the percentage of aid given for trade capacity building (progress indicator 41) and untying aid indicator 35).

Aid for trade can help poor producers meet market standards, for example, while retying aid can double its impact, by allowing developing country suppliers to bid. We also need to bind market access initiatives like the EBA (Everything but Arms) or AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act), which have short horizons, in WTO, because investors need longer guarantees before they commit. Harmonization is also important--market access agreements are a spaghetti bowl of rules.

Q Why should business get involved to achieve trade development goals?

A One of the reasons that developing countries got a bad deal in the Uruguay Round was because there was not enough private sector presence in the delegations. Even now, I am amazed at how little the private sector is getting involved in business advocacy.

It's not for nothing that governments are advised by business in OECD countries. If the system is skewed in their favour, in part it's because developing countries have not organized themselves sufficiently, and they have not invested enough. Businesses in developing countries should give governments a wake up call on the importance of investing time and money to boost exports.

Q What are some areas developing counties should focus on?

A To cite a few areas: developing countries have not participated enough in meetings where standards are set. Many didn't have an ambassadorial presence at the WTO, while they were present in countries where it made less of a difference. On TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights), businesses should call for a provision to protect or remunerate traditional knowledge. In the recent Forum magazine issue on trade law, you cited the case of Antonio Meucci, a poor immigrant to the US, who has just been recognized as the real inventor of the telephone--not Alexander Graham Bell, who acquired the patent and became rich from it. Meucci's case is being repeated ill developing countries today.

Q What can business groups do?

A In developing countries, business groups should work more closely with their own governments, and hold them accountable. They should also use their channels to contact their peers in rich countries to advocate with their governments for an open trading system. Governments don't readily listen to suggestions from a foreign source--they act because their own electorate wants them to.

In developed countries, any major business that exports to developing countries has a stake in their growth. …

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