Free Trade Clashes With Human Rights

Trade liberalization threatens human rights with policies and bullets

| March 24, 2005

You can add human rights to the list of casualties of the global economy, says a new report. Planting the Rights Seed, a new study published jointly this week by the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Geneva-based group 3D details the institutional measures that strip individuals in developing countries of basic human rights like food security, while lining the pockets of industry giants like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland.

It's a familiar refrain in the fair-trade movement. But the report delves deep into the structural inequities and offers practical fixes to the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Agriculture. The groups call for a stronger definition and regulation of 'dumping,' the practice whereby wealthy countries flood developing countries' markets with lower-priced subsidized goods. They want industrialized countries to build non-trade concerns into agricultural negotiations. They want stronger 'Special and Differential Treatment' mechanisms to take special account of developing countries' disadvantages in the market. And they are calling for assessments on how countries are actually doing on their subsidy-reduction plans.

It's all valuable advice for addressing the trade liberalization structures that impoverish small-scale farmers and chip away at rights in developing countries. But lest we forget about old-fashioned violent repression, Guatemala sent a reminder this month.

Two protesters were killed after police and soldiers opened fire on a demonstration against the Central American Free Trade Agreement in Huehuetenango. In this case, pictures may speak louder than words.

Go there >>Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

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