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Hilary Benn: While we are in this mood of generosity, may I say that I also welcome a great deal of what the hon. Lady said in her speech? She put with clarity and force the case for fairer trade as a means of helping to encourage development. I say "a great deal" not because I am churlish, but because her argument was at its least convincing when she tried to suggest that the Government are not trying hard enough similarly to make the case that she has put to the House this afternoon. That is not true, and I suspect that she knows that it is not true, not least because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who is leading the WTO negotiations, is passionate about the issue and committed to making this a round for development. However, the hon. Lady is absolutely right to askthis is the question for the House to consider this afternoonwhether, overall, the world is doing enough to deliver a fairer trading system. We are all concerned about whether we will make progress.
The background to the debatethe reason why it mattersis the daily reality of life for the 1.2 billion of our fellow human beings who live in abject poverty and lack the basic necessities that all hon. Members take for granted: clean water to drink, the chance to go to school and someone to heal them when they fall ill. Those people only wish for themselves and their families the things that hon. Members wish for the people whom we represent: the chance to live to a reasonable age, to be part of a community, to raise a family and to earn a living.
Hilary Benn: If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me a moment, I intend to come to that very point, because it is a very important part of the challenge that we face if we are to deliver progress for those 1.2 billion people.
As always in international development debates, it will be common cause across the House that global poverty amid so much plenty in the world is the single greatest challenge that we face. It is morally wrong. It is unjust. It feeds bitterness, division and conflict. All those are reasons why the world community, including the Government and the Opposition parties, are so committed to making poverty reduction one of the main millennium development goals. As the hon. Lady rightly said, they are the goals against which those 1.2 billion people will judge our commitment to making a difference to their lives. That is the issue.
If the House is weighing in its mind the balance of benefit, making progress on world trade can do more than we in the rich world are seeking to do in the aid that we give. The hon. Lady referred to the World Bank's estimates of the impact that eliminating all barriers to trade in goods would generate. Indeed, the figures that she quoted would have the potential to lift 300 million people out of poverty by 2015.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): For the poorer countries to benefit from better trade conditions, it is important they all have an equal voice at the table. One of the great criticisms at the last Uruguay round was that 28 countries had no representation at all in Geneva. I wonder whether the Minister would tell us what progress the Government have made towards giving those countries a better voice.
Hilary Benn: The hon. Lady makes an extremely important point. I was going to address that issue later, but I shall do so directly, since she has raised it, and take the opportunity to refer to the importance of improving the capacity of developing countries to participate in the process and of supporting negotiators, as they engage in trade reform. That is why, in the White Paper, "Making Globalisation Work for the Poor", published in 2000, the Government made a pledge to spend £45 million on trade-related capacity building activities between 1998 to 2004. That work is continuing and the funding has supported, among other things, the integrated framework, the Agency for International Trade Information and Development Co-operation and the Advisory Centre on WTO Law in Geneva.
That directly addresses the point raised by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) in referring to the shadow Chancellor's proposal, because the advisory centre already provides to developing, least-developed and transition countries free or low-cost legal support to those members pursuing cases in the dispute settlement mechanism. It provides seminars on WTO jurisprudence, general legal advice on WTO law and an internship programme for officials. It is working on precisely the issue to which the shadow Chancellor drew attention in his initiative. The only difference is that that work is already being done through the support that we are giving to that body.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: Does the Minister recognise, however, that there is a difference between the advocacy fund proposed by my party and the advisory centre in so far as while the advisory centre makes certain advice availablenot least in dispute resolutionthe key is negotiating in the trade rounds on equal terms? Under the advocacy fund proposal, developing countries have
Hilary Benn: I accept entirely the point that the hon. Gentleman makes about the importance of supporting the development of that kind of independent capacity. That is why, if we look at the development programmes in which the Department for International Development is involved in many countries of the world, building domestic capacity within finance ministries and trade ministries to engage in these debates and to understand what the changes proposed in the WTO may mean for their country and their people is an important part of that work. My point is simply that while I understand the motivation behind the shadow Chancellor's proposals, we already fund support mechanisms internationally, and the issue to which the hon. Gentleman refers is already a central part of the work that we do increasingly with developing countries' Governments. He is right that they need the capacity; the question is what is the most effective way to do it. In truth, as I think that he would accept on reflection, the most effective place in which to build that capacity is in the institutions of government of those countries, allowing them to send their representatives and their Ministers well-armed with arguments to put in the negotiations that will take place.
In recognising the importance of trade in helping to reduce poverty, it is important that we do not overstate the case. Trade alone is not the answer, although it is one very important factor in stimulating economic growth. As the hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out in his intervention, effective states with effective institutions, which implement the right policies such as investment in infrastructure, health and education, are the states that are in the best position to try to benefit from the effects of trade liberalisation. Trade liberalisation and effective governance must go hand in hand, which was a point rightly made by the hon. Member for Meriden. That is why we are so heavily involved as a Government and as a Department in helping African and other developing countries to strengthen their institutions and therefore their capacity to develop economically.
If we accept the argument about the benefits of trade, of course, we should be concerned that the current global trading system does not deliver those promised benefits and does not work for the poor.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): Does the Minister share any of the concerns that some have expressed that by trying to widen the scope of the discussions at Cancun, the Government are effectively ignoring the fact that so many of the commitments from Doha have not yet been implemented?
Hilary Benn: I do not accept that argument, and if the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I intend to address that point later in my remarks. It is an important point, not least because the Trade Justice Movement has chosen to make it a particular focus of its activities during this week.
The hon. Member for Meriden was right that rich countries' protectionist policies are stopping developing countries from benefiting, which means that the poorest countries in the world have few opportunities to grow
However, that is not to say that success is assuredit is not. Despite everything at stake, progress during the negotiations has been painfully slow. Critical deadlines have been missed. The issues that matter most to developing countries, which are agriculture, special and differential treatmentI add that to the list that the hon. Member for Meriden gave ushealth and trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, are the key issues on which we as the world community, not as the UK Government, will be judged.