I agree absolutely and I am delighted that the Trade Justice Movement also agrees, not least because, rightly, it has been campaigningand the Government have respondedon issues such as debt, trade, HIPC and the other matters that my hon. Friend rightly raised.
Oxfam research showed that the falling price of coffee in Kenya forced parents to take their children out of school because they could no longer afford the fees. The price fall meant that parents' income more than halved in the space of two years.
Yesterday's The Guardian contained an extremely telling article, which I commend to my friends in the Trade Justice Movement, by George Monbiot[Interruption.] I see that it appeals also to the hon. Member for Meriden. George Monbiot said that he had changed his mind on some of the essential issuesfor example, on the role of the World Trade Organisation. I welcome that change of mind. He made it clear that whereas he had argued that our aim should be to remove the influence of the WTO, he now realised that the initiative should be transformed. In telling words, he said:
"The only thing worse than a world with the wrong international trade rules is a world with no trade rules at all."
The challenge to this Parliament, the European Union, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation is to put in place a set of rules banishing free trade and replacing it with a genuine level playing field and fair trade. The Cancun conference in September is the next road stop on this almost endless journey, and we are watching all the developments very closely indeed.
My last words are those that have been poignantly expressed by the Trade Justice Movement:
"Trade should be the means by which poor people can lift themselves out of poverty, not the prison that steals their future."
Tony Baldry (Banbury):
The prophet Micah said:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
We all have an inherent concept of what justice is, and this debate is about trade justice. When the Prime Minister of Ethiopia gave evidence to the Select Committee on International Development, he said that there was a danger that Africa could become the continental ghetto of a globalised world. He said:
"Unless Africa develops, it will spawn all sorts of criminal groups en masse, including drug cartels and terrorists, which will haunt all of us. Unless Africa develops, people will flee not in their
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thousands but, perhaps, in their tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, and that will haunt all of us. Unless Africa develops, there will be environmental devastation in the continent and the rest of the world. Unless Africa develops, a large part of humanity will be, in effect, excluded from the global cake and the global cake will be smaller for all of us. Developed countries have, therefore, a stake in Africa's development. It is in their enlightened self-interest to help Africa develop."
Of course, we could replace the word "Africa" with the names of many of the developing countries.
Our world community is interdependent, and we cannot simply have trade rules that are entirely give and take, whereby we ask the developing countries to gain concessions while they keep having to give more. Prime Minister Meles put it to the Committee that
"international trade negotiations are based on bargaining and give and take. We know that whatever the rhetoric might be, those with the bigger bargaining power get what affects their interest more. That is the reality. The poor countries, particularly those in Africa, because their share in global trade is insignificant, have no significant bargaining power. They cannot engage in meaningful give and take."
Many non-governmental organisations gave evidence to the Select Committee. Duncan Green of CAFOD spoke of
"extracting as much as you can get and giving as little as you can. That is not even the free market but a straightforward mercantilist approach to negotiation."
At Cancun, we shall all have to stand back and consider what is in the best interest not of each country but of the global community as a whole. Unless we in the developed world are prepared to make concessions on agricultural support and trade-related aspects of intellectual property rightsTRIPSwe can forget about getting the general agreement on trade in services or "new issues" on to the agenda, because there will be absolutely no interest in the developing world in making any concessions on GATS or new issues. Sadly, we have made almost no progress on agricultural support or TRIPS since the end of 2002.
The International Development Committee has been undertaking an inquiry into the matter, and we went to see Commissioner Fischler. It was a pretty depressing meeting, as I think the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), who was also present, will confirm. We got there, sat down, asked the commissioner some questions, and he said, in terms, "Frankly, it is not our responsibility. It is not our fault. The EU is doing everything that we need to do." He said:
"We know that our US friends are asking for more market access, but this more market access is at the cost of developing countries . . . Our agricultural support, on export subsidies, compared with the value of the export, is more or less insignificant . . . We reduce the more trade-distorting elements and partly increase those elements which are not trade distorting. Unfortunately, our American friends have done the opposite, especially with their last Farm Bill. This is where we now have a rather difficult discussion."
In effect, Fischler was saying, "There is nothing for us to do." We then went to Washington to meet representatives of the United States Department of Agriculture. They said, "It is not us, it is you, the European Union, who have got to shift."
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Some real political effort needs to be made if we are to achieve a breakthrough. Understandably, that will require genuine political commitment. The attention of many political leaders, including our Prime Minister and President Bush, has understandably been distracted by Iraq and other topics. If I have a criticism and concern, it is that, if any progress is to be made in Cancun, it will require more than an interdepartmental Cabinet sub-committee and the Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry, for International Development, and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs getting their act together. In terms of agricultural subsidy, some serious political head-banging and sorting out will be required in the EU and the United States. It is appalling to note that, even if we have won any influence in the United States, we have yet to sort out TRIPS.
In his recent statement on the G8 summit, the Prime Minister said:
"We all agreed that a successful outcome to the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting . . . in September and the successful completion of the development round by 2005 are of central importance. The wealthy nations of the world simply cannot any longer ask the developing world to stand on its own two feet but shut out the very access to our markets that is necessary for it to do so. Reform of the European common agricultural policy will be vital in that regard."[Official Report, 4 June 2003; Vol. 405, c. 158.]
We would all agree with that. Then, almost a week later, the Prime Minister reported back from the European Council in Thessalonika. Those of us who have been around long enough understood the form of words that were used at the Dispatch Box. In the light of the wordplay between the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, it was clear that, while in Thessalonika, the Prime Minister had not invested any political capital in pushing for reform of the common agricultural policy.
We on the Conservative Benches are far more consensual and kind to the Prime Minister than some of the political sketch writers. In the following day's edition of The Independent, Simon Carr said that the Prime Minister proved that
"he is truly bilingual by speaking with forked tongue . . .
The truth also gets lost in the technical forest. Was it good that common agricultural policy . . . reform was left with the Agricultural Council . . .?
Bearing in mind the proposals will have to go to the Council of Ministers in the end, will the cause of CAP reform be helped or hindered by its current forum of discussion?
Your answer will determine how many peasants starve to death in various country-wide death camps in the Third World. We don't know the answer, we can't know, and given that we have a generalised interest in Third World peasants not starving to death, we don't care. If we did care, Mr Blair would care. If Mr Blair cared, he'd have done something about it years ago."
The real concern is that Ministers have to convince this House and the country that between now and Cancun the Government and the Prime Minister will invest some real political time and effort in talking to President Bush, and in making progress on agricultural reform and TRIPS. If they do not, we will make no progress on the WTO agenda. We do not doubt the good will and commitment of Ministers
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord):
Order. The hon. Gentleman has had his time. I call Ann McKechin.
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