Yesterday, the House of Lords gathered to debate those aspects of the Queen’s Speech relating to International Development. TOP Co-Chair Lord Hastings took this opportunity to promote the role of trade as a catalyst to create sustainable economic growth and lift the world’s least developed countries out of poverty.
Following his experiences at the World Economic Forum on Africa last week, Lord Hastings commented that there was a “profound enthusiasm and great new optimism” about the state of countries across the African continent. The language of poverty is being replaced with the language of prosperity, but there is still much to be done. While more and more of Africa’s wealth is being realised, the inequality gap is widening. While the Prime Minister is busy disputing with the President of Liberia (one of the poorest countries in the world which is unlikely to achieve any of the major millennium development goals) whether there should be a provision in the new sustainable development goals on removing income inequality, this disparity is becoming an ugly reality.
“There are booming numbers of new billionaires and multi-millionaires in Africa’s new wealthy cities who are becoming gated and divided from the poor that they once lived alongside. Those poor remain without water, electricity, social supplies, good hospitalisation, healthcare and adequate work. It is an absolute necessity to close that gap.”
Inequality must also be addressed on a global scale by addressing the specific needs of developing countries in world trade. Lord Hastings put the case for trade to be placed at the centre of international development strategies – it is a win-win scenario that will not only enable the world’s poorest to leave poverty behind, but also provide a much needed boost to the global economy:
“As we all know, there is continuing pressure on trade negotiations to be completed by the end of this year. Should trade opportunity be better liberalised as markets would require, it would release new energy into the market system, boosting the potential of poor communities, particularly agricultural communities, by an estimated further trillion dollars of income that would go to the poorest people. Solving trade issues will be up to the big decision-makers and the G8 must play its part. The All Party Group on Trade Out of Poverty firmly believes that it is necessary to open up rich country markets unconditionally to the poorest countries of all, and that it is time to end the ridiculous subsidies, such as $2 per cow per day in the EU and $3 billion spent in the US to subsidise cotton and then dump it, which undermines the jobs of 25,000 cotton growers in the poor world, particularly in Africa. It is time to stop protecting our own agricultural base through subsidy and let the rest of the world have access to markets and thus generate jobs. It is time to let trade be what delivers the economic future necessary for the world’s poorest.”