EU and the global battle for fair trade


Madam, - Con Lucey of the IFA assures us that the EU is taking the lead in granting full duty-free and quota-free access for all products from the least developed countries "EU is not the problem in trade talks" (Opinion & Analysis, December 15th).

He goes on to say that "the EU is seeking agreement that the least developed countries should not be asked to open up their markets in the current negotiations". However, he excludes countries such as Brazil and Argentina from "least developed countries".

Minister of State for Trade Michael Aherne, speaking at the WTO talks in Hong Kong on December 14th, concurred with this, saying "Brazil is very insistent on getting access for their agriculture but don't seem to be very keen on giving access in the area of industry and services".

He went on further to say that "India is being very defensive. These countries have to move if there is to be any deal".

It appears to me, from a perspective of having lived and worked in less developed African countries for over 10 years, that just as the developed countries seem to be making concessions to the countries struggling to feed their populations, there is the adoption of "divide and rule" tactics by the EU, the US and Japan.

The fight for some kind of beginning to fair trade for all is being led by countries such as India and Brazil. Countries which cannot even afford to send delegates to the WTO are relying on them for protection.

I remember a so-called "Structural Adjustment Programme" breaking down the barriers against entry for Western goods under pressure from the IMF in the 1990s. Almost overnight local industries such as textiles were wiped out, while I, as a teacher in a township school, was required to collect school fees from children living in township shacks. It was a shocking display of Western misunderstanding. Zimbabwe, the country I am referring to, was spun into a retro-development from which it has not recovered and of which Robert Mugabe's mishandling is merely a symptom.

My point is that no conditions should be placed on any of the less developed countries, such as forcing them to open up home markets to globalisation, until they have solved the basic problems of hunger, health and simple literacy. - Yours, etc,

SÉAMUS BLAKE, Strand Palace, Youghal, Co Cork.