Can poor countries benefit from globalisation?

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The latest round of World Trade Organisation meetings has opened in Cancun, Mexico.

One of the key issues under discussion will be how poorer countries can benefit from the increasing globalisation of markets.

Developing countries, including those in Africa, have always maintained that they get a raw deal from the global trading system and that WTO rules tend to favour richer nations.

Could rich countries do more to make sure that poor countries benefit from globalisation?
Should they open up their markets?
Are poor countries, including those in Africa, doing enough to get the most from WTO negotiations?

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:    The row over agriculture subsidies shows that the poor need more globalisation instead of less of it
Rolf, The Netherlands 

The row over agriculture subsidies shows that the poor need more globalisation instead of less of it: the EU and the US need to open their markets to agricultural goods from developing countries and stop subsidizing their farmers.
Rolf, The Netherlands

The USA and other rich countries should spend at least half of 320 billion dollars they spend to subsidize their own farmers for the ones in the poor countries. And then ask to open up the agriculture markets globally.
Daniel K., USA

EU and US farming subsidies are not only bad news for third world economies, they are also bad for the majority of EU and US citizens since we have to pay for these subsidies in our taxes. The only people they help are EU and US farmers.
Ben, U.K.

I am embarrassed by the naive and arrogant comments of my countrymen on this site. The majority of people in the developed world have never visited resource-poor nations and have utterly no concept of the true destitution in these places-and ironically that even applies to many of the "anti-globalization" activists. Meanwhile, Westerners who support "globalization" seem to think the term has something to do with better communication or travel between nations. The theory of free trade sounds great, but in truth developed nations have said one thing while doing another, for decades. Ask any dairy farmer in Mali, cotton farmer in West Africa, or AIDS patient in South America or the Caribbean if the behaviour of Western governments or corporations has followed the ideals of actual free trade, much less followed policies to alleviate suffering of citizens in developing countries. The playing field is stacked unfairly against resource-poor and likely will continue to be, I'm afraid. This is doubly true so long as the IMF and World Bank pursue 'one-size-fits all programmes. Instead of assuming they know what's good for persons in developing countries; rich Westerners should shut their mouths and take a visit. It might change some of their condescending stereotypes of our peers in other nations.
Dr. Richard Loftus, US

Fair trade, equal treatment to all nations has to be the base of globalization
Samuel Davila, Mexico 

Fair trade, equal treatment to all nations has to be the base of globalization. We do not want those violent activists in Mexico. We are a country that loves peace and violent manifestation is not one of our values. Activists go back to your countries and get to work.
Samuel Davila, Mexico

After what the EU and US have been up to in terms of agriculture, I think the WTO should be disbanded. There is no point anymore the US won't move the EU won't move and in the mean time billions of people are suffering. The WTO was a good idea, it might even be again, but not until the EU and US change there attitude.
Daniel, Australia

I think rich people are the only ones gaining from globalisation. When you look at the world today, we can clearly see the huge gap between people in the developing world and the people in the developed world. There are people who don't have clothes and then there are people who have hundreds of clothes and shoes. The focus of globalisation should be to distribute wealth among everyone so that everyone has an opportunity to live a descent life. But the west is only looking to gain more capital even from the struggling poor countries. That's very sad and pathetic.
Theresa Kavenga, US/Zimbabwe

The main result of globalisation will be the impoverishment of workers in the developed world. The corporations sent all our manufacturing jobs overseas, now they are sending all our high tech jobs that were supposed to replace the manufacturing jobs to India. If we let corporations and governments have their way the future for developed world workers is Third world wages.
Gerod Wattier, US

Only countries whose leaders can manage their country well can benefit from globalisation
Kamarudin, Malaysia 

Only countries whose leaders can manage their country well can benefit from globalisation. If they behave like crooks they can never achieve anything accept poverty for their people.
Kamarudin, Malaysia

The Developed countries should fulfil the promises they made at earlier summits. They should realise 'Charity always begins at home'. So if they want developing countries to reform, they should stop subsidising their rich farmers.
Ajith Pillai, India

Globalization should be embraced in true spirit not the convenient way rich counties see fit. Rich countries should come out of colonization hang over and start accepting the fact that the planet "EARTH" belongs to all - not few Western Powers.
Krishan Kumar, India/USA

I wish they could visit and witness the abject poverty in these countries
Opportunity Tigere, Zimbabwe 

Poor countries could benefit from globalisation but not in its present form. I am sick and tired of government programmes for education and health being cut in Africa. Water is being privatised on the continent as well as other poor countries leaving the poor to drink dirty and unsafe water. That would never be tolerated in the West. Corruption goes on and in most cases is encouraged by these multinationals. I don't see how these IMF and World Bank economists keep using statistics to say countries such as Senegal, Uganda are progressing (lower budget deficits etc). I wish they could visit and witness the abject poverty in these countries. It's a shame.
Opportunity Tigere, Zimbabwe

Globalisation is certainly much better for poor countries than isolation. It's simple economics. Poor countries will be able to offer services and produce goods at a much lower price than wealthier ones, thereby placing enterprising individuals in these countries at great advantage. Jason, USA

Globalisation is increasing the gap between haves and have-nots
J. Angulo, Mexico 

Poor countries export cheap raw materials and their workers assemble products that will later be imported at 10 times their cost. When corporations find lower wages through corrupt governments, they move the jobs to even poorer nations. Third World farmers compete with highly industrialised, genetically improved and subsidised crops. Many have reverted to sustenance agriculture. Globalisation is increasing the gap between haves and have-nots, creating a potentially dangerous social scenario throughout the world for the future. There is no stopping the process until corporations stop chasing short-term profits and realise that the more people have a decent quality of life, the more customers they will have in the long run.
J. Angulo, Mexico

Why do we always see the negative side of globalisation? Yes, economic globalisation has yet to create an even playing field. However, look at the benefits of global cultural, social and political exchange. We are all learning more and more about each other every day, bringing a greater global understanding of ourselves.
Chris, UK

Poor countries can only benefit from globalisation if the WTO recognises the peculiarities of most of these developing countries, i.e. small market, dependence on a mono-crop etc and as such the need for special and differential treatment. Unless this issue is resolved then trade liberalisation and globalisation will continue to have more adverse effects on developing countries than advantages.
Rhoda, Commonwealth of Dominica

Globalisation requires good governance
Joachim Arrey, Ossing, Cameroon 

Sure! However, many poor countries, especially African countries, need to make conscious efforts towards reorganising their countries in order to benefit from globalisation. Globalisation requires good governance, prudent management of scarce resources and the adoption of new and innovative approaches toward production and service delivery in order to be competitive at the global level. Poor countries are yet to consider investments in new and innovative technologies as the first step toward benefiting from globalisation. Joachim Arrey, Ossing, Cameroon

I don't have a problem with globalisation or free trade per say. What I do have a problem with is the hypocritical way in which the developed world is undertaking the process. It's a do as I say but not as I do policy. The US and Europe needs to stop subsidising agriculture and certain key industries. If they refuse to do that then they should stop demanding that the developing world open up their markets.
Mid, Barbados

WTO policies benefit large international corporations rather than the local community
Pat Long, USA 

The world should be focusing on fair trade, not free trade. WTO policies benefit large international corporations rather than the local community. The well being of the farmer or tradesperson should be the main consideration. WTO policies favour the wealthy, large companies which care about nothing but profits. Environmental safeguards and worker welfare should be protected at all costs.
Pat Long, USA

I've just returned from a trip to Burkina Faso, where they grow a lot of cotton. They export over 80% of this to service their national debt. But the price has plummeted due to the massive subsidy that the US government gives to US farmers, who dump their excess cotton on the world markets. So the US subsidy is having a direct impact on the poverty of that country. Too many of the developed nations are in it selfishly and want new open markets for their exports while they still indulge in unfair practices. Hopefully Cancun might start to change that.
Andrew Frost, UK

Does globalisation help the poor? Maybe a little bit... but boy does it help the rich!!
Lon Barfield, UK

Well, the WTO is a frontal organisation for the official exploitation of poor countries. A saga of modern day colonisation. This organisation does nothing but steal from the beggars and fill the pockets of the rich with a few more pennies, leaving the poor to die.
Arun Kumar, India

Certainly the WTO will help poor countries provided that there is no protectionism. Eliminating protectionism in the WTO would be perfect, but I doubt it will ever happen and we poor will remain so forever.
Purna Chhetri, Bhutan

Free trade will be allowed only so far as it does not damage the market share of the big players
Ken, UK 

Poor countries will only benefit from globalisation by receiving the crumbs from a bigger loaf of bread and providing cheap labour for multinational companies. The pecking order will remain the same. Free trade will be allowed only so far as it does not damage the market share of the big players.
Ken, UK

Globalisation depends on how we define it practically. Apparently there could be inequitable distribution of economy in the world unless it embraces fair trade policies globally rather than tentative conclusions. Countries like Nepal, Brazil and many African nations, abundant resources of hydropower, agriculture and mines, have not substantially benefited yet even though it has been long since that global perspective has been introduced. Rich countries, considering economically stronger, should practise in stipulating the whole potential outcomes of poor nations, hence reinforce their economy. If otherwise globalisation will only remain as either politics or monopoly in the global economy.
Sanjeev Kharel, Nepal

Why do we treat the economy like it is THE most important issue around which all others must be fitted? What ever happened to the centrality of human things; like family and friendship? In the mechanised age are we becoming like machines ourselves - more concerned with processes and productivity than with relationships? Lee, England

Globalisation only benefits the rich countries. It's them who came out with the term
Richard, UK

No, poor countries will not benefit until and unless the rich countries stop talking from both sides of their mouths. As long as there are double standards, the status quo will remain.
Dee, Zambia

The problem is never simple to solve. In the UK is that shoppers want the lowest price and the greatest choice. I was in Tesco's last night and in the fruit and veg section, mange-tout, sweet corn and carrots were produced in Africa and flown to the UK. I doubt if the growers were paid a fair price and the pollution involved must have been terrible. Trade in exotic goods is not the problem (unless you fly them everywhere), people must understand that paying a fair price is needed to redress the balance, but the EU and US must stop the farming subsidies.
Mark, UK

The biggest trade barriers against poor countries are imposed by their poor neighbours. They impose costs and corruption inducing bureaucracy. Globalisation will take opportunities to where they provide best value. That means we had all better be ready for its effects.
Matt, UK

The evidence is clear. Those countries that globalised slowly under there own terms benefited and those that were made to do it quickly by the WTO, IMF and World Bank didn't.
Matthew Freedman, UK

I predict a future of constant economic booms and busts for all nations, rich or poor
Jeff G, USA 

The answer is no. For example, Mexico will lose about 25 million agriculture jobs over the next few decades as a result of NAFTA, because they cannot compete with US farmers. These people cannot depend on manufacturing because many factories in Mexico are closing down and moving to China for cheaper labour. So more Mexicans will illegally cross the border into the US, however with American jobs disappearing at a rapid rate to lower paid workers in India, Russia and the Philippines they won't find much to do here either. The Indians, Russians and Filipinos will soon lose these jobs to countries with even lower labour costs. I predict a future of constant economic booms and busts for all nations, rich or poor, as this constant cycle of moving jobs around the globe to benefit from ever lower labour costs continues. Other than the corporations no one will benefit.
Jeff G, USA

Rich countries can absolutely do more so that poorer countries can benefit from globalisation. Once everyone realizes that we have the same needs and we are not different but are but the same, only then can progress be made. If richer countries shared what they have with poorer countries then thousands would not perish through starvation on a daily basis. When people can see the value of human life and value it more than material objects money, oil, drugs, only then will the world wake up to the cries of other nations.
Yogini Patel, USA

Globalisation will only benefit those willing to make a fair bargain. Those countries who want something for nothing will always complain.
Richard Murray, UK

If "globalisation" is used as a synonym for capitalism, then the poor countries will continue to be exploited by the wealthy nations. However, if "globalisation" is used to redistribute the wealth of the rich nations to those impoverished ones, the answer is obviously "yes": poor countries will benefit. It all hangs on the definition of the vague term "globalisation", and in what context it is being used and by whom.
Alan Hall, UK

Poor countries will benefit from globalisation, by losing their lean industrial and commercial frameworks. It will mean major opportunities and probably cheaper access to products and services, for the majority of the poor population. The price to pay by these underdeveloped countries will be loosing their capacity to compete with the richer countries and becoming more dependent on them. If they are trying to improve their lot, by loosing their capacity to be self sufficient is a very good option.
Jose Nigrin, Guatemala

Trade is not yet free
Amoroso Gombe, Kenya 

Of course poor countries will benefit from free trade. The reason they don't benefit now is because trade is not yet free. There is free trade in industrial produce (which is good for the industrialised world) but there is no free trade in agricultural produce (which is bad for everyone but worse for the non-industrialised poor). That's the simple problem that must be solved at Cancun. If it is, Cancun will be a huge success.
Amoroso Gombe, Kenya

It's quite simple. Unless we, the developed countries, don't provide a fairer and more equitable world trade environment, then the poor countries may start to take the law into their own hands. We will reap what we sow.
Nigel Cooper, England

Globalisation is nothing new. The conquest of the Americas, slavery and colonialism all involved trans-national trade, labour relations and the global exercise of power. Historically, powerful interests have prospered at the expense of the underdevelopment of the rest. If globalisation today is to have any chance of benefiting poorer countries then international organisations like the WTO must work harder to ensure equal terms of trade throughout the world rather than enabling the continued exploitation of the many for the gain of the few.
Jarrod, UK

I don't think it will be that simple. Unless corruption can be abolished, the people of these poorer countries will never truly benefit from any help from the west.
David Hilton, Hudds, UK

Yes they can, but only if the process of globalisation involves genuinely free and fair trade. One of the greatest injustices at the present time is the huge subsidies which farmers in Europe, the USA and Japan receive. This corrupts world market prices, makes life impossible for farmers in the developing world and directly contributes to world hunger. If WTO can start listening a bit more to the governments of Brazil, South Africa and other developing countries, rather than the apologists for major multinational corporations, we might start to get somewhere.
Tim Hiscock, UK

All countries should open up their markets
Graeme Phillips, Germany/ UK 

With 4.4% last year, the OECD nation with the highest rate of economic growth was New Zealand, which is by far the most unprotected economy in the developed world. All countries should open up their markets; even developing ones. Furthermore, positive discrimination should not be used as it encourages uncompetitive industries to develop. If countries were allowed to succeed completely on their own merits, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
Graeme Phillips, Germany, normally UK

Globalisation commodifies resources (water) that sustain life in poor countries. This has profound and potentially catastrophic implications for rural, agrarian communities. As it was shaped by the World Bank and IMF, multinational interests were far too great a factor in the shaping of policy. Combined with widespread corruption among the political and bureaucratic elites in countries (e.g. India and Mexico), WTO policies do not achieve the economic "trickle down" necessary to stabilise these governments, leading to greater political and social instability. If "equality of all men" loses to the interest to accumulate capital for multinational market expansion, then the WTO has failed in principle.
Erik T. Marketan, New York City, USA

Globalisation' is not just a post-war phenomenon: it has been a fact since the age of sail, and has resulted in the wild prosperity of the Americas, the East-Asian 'Tigers' and it is currently benefiting India amongst others. While there is room for some cultural protectionism (Canada and France are great proponents of this), open markets, sensible property ownership laws, and protection of copyright are necessary steps for any country's economic development.
Kristian, Canada

Market globalisation has not helped the citizens of the Third World
Said Bahashwan, Tanzania 

As a citizen of one of the poorest countries in the World, I can say with authority that market globalisation has not helped the citizens of the Third World. Sixty percent of my country's budget is subsidised by the EU, Japan and American funds, and we have no local industry to speak of, since the government was forced by the IMF to privatise as many state-owned firms as they can. Most of these firms ended up owned by firms from the developed countries. The results are high unemployment, political instability and full ownership of our economy by foreigners.
Said Bahashwan, Tanzania

As it is conceived today, "globalisation" mainly means that the most powerful corporations from developed countries will have easier access to underdeveloped countries' resources. The world was unbalanced before; this so-called globalisation will likely make it even more unbalanced, resulting in more suffering across poor nations.
James, Canada

The whole issue revolves on how we value human life. We don't live in a world where the free international markets are operating on a level playing field. Multinational companies have enormous power. Gandhi was right; each poor country needs to develop its own strengths from the grassroots upwards and not be swallowed up by the world market place. With the advent of internet technology the sharing of information through the support of voluntary organisations such as Oxfam should be so much easier than ever before.
Sonia Halder, UK

The whole globalisation argument is flawed from the start. The big corporations siphon money and resources from developing countries and don't put anything back to help the local populations. Globalisation could work if corporations gave a fair deal to developing nations, and not sucked them dry. There is a big difference between free trade and fair trade. Free trade benefits no-one except the corporations; Fair trade benefits everyone. Paul Weaver says "Globalisation redistributes wealth from richer countries to poorer countries". This could not be further from the truth, otherwise developing countries would be a lot better off already.
Peter, England

To Paul Weaver, UK. Globalisation encourages poorer countries to stay poor so they can attract multinationals. If a Gambian worker costs £5k then another country will soon offer their workers for £4k, and another will then offer theirs for £3k, etc. The only winners are the multinationals who make even more profits for their shareholders and directors in the richer countries.

Of course, assuming they have a stable government. Jobs get outsourced from the UK, where a helpdesk person, equipment, training, managing etc. costs £50,000 a year, to Gambia where they cost £5,000 a year. That £5k in Gambia is an above average wage, and the money is injected into the local economy. Globalisation redistributes wealth from richer countries to poorer countries.
Paul Weaver, UK

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