Trade and Investment

By Aileen Kwa
Africa considers that there is not much to celebrate...For many decades, the GATT has had a legacy of treating developing countries like second class members of a rich mens exclusive club. As a result, the GATT-based multilateral trading system could not address, and in many ways, contributed to the difficulties faced by developing countries.

By Nicola Bullard
According to the publicity, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an economic forum composed of twenty-one counties bordering the Pacific, and accounts for 46 per cent of the world's trade and over half of the world's gross national product. Or, at least these figures were true six months ago before the financial crisis started to sweep through Southeast Asia wiping billions of dollars off national assets and earnings.

Although the idea of APEC was first raised by Japan in 1989, APEC made little progress until1993 when the US started to get nervous about progress on the Uruguay GATT and saw that an Asia Pacific free trade area could complement the already established North America Free Trade Area (NAFT), thereby bringing half the economic world into a fast-track trade and investment liberalisation regime. The US' main interest in APEC was, and still is, to increase its markets by knocking down trade barriers and opening opportunities for foreign investment in the rapidly expanding economies of the Asian tigers.

But the free trade vision of APEC has never been fulfilled precisely because the Asian tigers believed that their own growth was dependant on protecting certain sectors of their economies -- in particular agriculture - from lower priced and often subsidised products from Northern countries. While these economies were booming, it was politically possible for them to punch above their weight in the APEC negotiations, with the result that the few agreements that have been reached on trade liberalisation are voluntary and non-binding.

by Walden Bello, in The Nation Newspaper, 3 December, 1997, Bangkok, Thailand

The bane of Southeast Asian tiger economies is due to their rapid industrialisation strategy which is highly dependent on foreign capital, argues Walden Bello in this first of a three-part series.

The environmental community received an early Christmas gift a few weeks ago when the Malaysian government announced that it was suspending plans to build the controversial Bakun dam in Sarawak. Constructing the dam would have resulted in the clear-cutting of close to 70,000 hectares of forest land in an area that is already experiencing one of the world's highest rates of deforestation and the displacement of about 9,500 indigenous people.

by Kamal Malhotra, Co-Director, Focus on the Global South (FOCUS), Bangkok, Thailand. Paper prepared for the Regional Conference on "MonoCultural Cropping in Southeast Asia: Social/Environmental Impacts and Sustainable Alternatives, June 3-6, 1996, Songkhla, Thailand


The negotiations during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) which concluded with its signing in 1994 and led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) early the following year were significantly focused on the issue of agricultural trade.


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