On the subject of Globalisation...

posted September 17, 2003 by Chris


I have mixed feelings about the collapse of trade talks. While I defintely side with the poorer countries when they decided to walk out when the richer countries refused to cut the huge subsidies that they give to their farmers - I don't know if it's really such a good idea to cut the subsidies in the first place. Additionally I really can't do this topic justice with in a newspost. Maybe later I'll get into more detail.

Coming from a farming county I can tell you just how rough it is for the American farmer to sell his product. Super cheap food from overseas, combined with a glut of corporate farmed food (Perdue for example) makes it difficult for the stand alone farmer. The problem here is that corporate farms (mostly midwest) are over producing (at the cost to the environment and to our health) product. So much that they are paid to destory product in order to keep a false supply/demand ratio.

So would cutting subsidies help? Maybe if we dropped them for the huge corporate farms, but not for the independent farmer. Additionally, poorer countries don't necessarily follow the best environmental guidelines with farming their crops (many practise slash and cut farming of Rainforest land) nor do they use the healtheist of pesticides/fertilisers. The arguement here is that they are trapped in a cycle of poverty that prevents them from upgrading their farming practises. This is certainly true. Even to the extent that they are tricked into using non seeding plants. Meaning that they have to continue buying (at more cost) the altered seeds. And they are not able to plant crops that could bear seeds that they could simply replant themselves.

Combine this with the fact that poorer countries are mostly agricultural societies, whose people if not farming, work for below living wages in Western owned sweatshops or in mining style industries (owned by foreign companies who don't pay shit). What you get is a country of people who can't afford to buy the products that their country produces, even the farming goods (thus not being able to support their economies). So the farmers have to rely almost EXCLUSIVELY on exporting. And they're getting paid jack shit too.

Then move over to the West and we have all of our jobs going overseas to the poorer countries where WESTERN companies can get away with horrendous conditions and slave wages, all so they can sell it back to us. Problem: we have no jobs, therefore no money. This is the primary reason our farmers need subsidies and the HAVE to overproduce to keep the costs down or otherwise NOBODY would be able to afford farming products. This problem has been building for about 30 years now (when Western companies REALLY started laying off workers once they realised they could exploit the poor in other nations). And it's only going to get worse. You know those tech jobs that used to be so lucrative here? Not anymore. You can pay a hundred Bangledeshi's for a fraction of what one American IT expert gets paid to do the job, and the scary thing is they do it just as well as we do. So what's going to be left for Americans? We don't make shit over here, and we're losing our tech jobs now too. Only the business of making money will ever be around....

So as you can see this is a difficult situation. And while it's great that they are banding together to give the finger to richer countries - so long as the WTO exists in its current capacity and structure (which is flawed) - poorer countries are also going to lose out; as well as consumers in richer countries. Of course maybe if these countries weren't ruled by zealots and dictators, things might get a little bit better for them. But it's a two way street. And Capitalism doesn't work unless somebody is in poverty, b/c otherwise nobody would be rich.

For some good news coverage on this issue check out the BBC.
Also the International Action Center has information for those wanting to get involved in the struggle for economic justice.