February 18, 2003

Free Trade Simply Not a High Priority

The Economist writes about how free trade is simply not a priority for the governments of the industrial core--not for Japan, not for Europe, and certainly not for the Bush Administration. Given first-world attitudes, I cannot see how the Doha Round can end in anything but a very minor fig-leaf of an agreement.

Economist.com: ...NEVER do today what can be put off till tomorrow. The trade ministers from 22 countries, whose three-day meeting in Tokyo ended on February 16th, managed to live down to their reputation for a reluctance to compromise?and enthusiasm for delay. Hardened trade negotiators are used to deadlines repeatedly missed, crisis talks at the eleventh hour, and second-best solutions. But the outcome of the Tokyo meeting was nevertheless disappointing for those hoping that the Doha round of trade negotiations, conducted under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), were going to be different.

For a time it looked as if they were. When the round was launched in the Qatari capital in November 2001, the atmosphere was one of rapprochement between the rich countries and their poorer neighbours, and between those rich countries that had been at loggerheads on trade issues. The aftermath of the attacks of September 11th 2001, the war on terror and the invasion of Afghanistan had combined to put the developing world at the top of the political agenda. The rich world appeared to recognise that poor countries needed to become full participants in the world economy?and needed help to do that.

Developing countries skilfully exploited this new attitude. They had resisted the idea of a new round of trade negotiations?many of them felt they had got a raw deal from the previous Uruguay round, which had, in the view of the poor countries, been heavily skewed in favour of the industrial world. Developing-country negotiators wrung substantial concessions from their richer neighbours in return for agreeing to launch a new round. Some aspects of the Uruguay round deal would be revisited?and, hands on hearts, the rich countries promised to offer significant progress on issues like agricultural trade. An eventual end to farm subsidies and greater access to rich-world markets was what the poor countries really wanted.

Perhaps they should have known better. Progress since the Doha meeting has been slow. Little headway has been made even on issues about which the arguments seem relatively minor. In November, trade ministers meeting in Sydney appeared to come close to resolving the tricky question of poor countries? access to new medicines. Many modern drugs are simply too expensive for developing countries and the search has been on for a formula that would provide such medicines to them at much-reduced prices?provided some watertight arrangement preventing their profitable resale in the industrial world could be agreed. Yet in subsequent meetings, America has continued to block a deal acceptable to everyone else. No further progress was made on this in Tokyo.

Posted by DeLong at February 18, 2003 07:00 AM | TrackBack

If far freer trade is not a significant priority for the developed countries, than I am especially fearful for southern African countries.

Generating trade with southern Africa in agricultural goods is of signal importance for Africans and indeed even for our own security.

The ability of southern Africans to have access to inexpensive drugs for AIDS, malaria, sleeping sickness, TB can not be over stated in importance.

Understand how dire the development needs are at THIS very moment in southern Africa. Assistance is needed, but we must also offer an incentive to more rapid development through trade.

At least Brazil is in a position to stand up to the developed world when it comes to pushing selective trade liberalization. Southern Africa may not be able to push hard enough, even when oil is the trade commodity.

Good grief....

Posted by: anne on February 18, 2003 08:09 AM

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa - Stephen Lewis

Drawing attention to the Secretary-General's mission report, which studied Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe in January, Stephen Lewis said it contained very strong and uncompromising language because there was no room for ambiguity - 30 million Africans, were at risk due to the AIDS epidemic.

"HIV/AIDS is the most fundamental underlying cause of the southern African crisis," he stated, referring to the on-going debate about the role of drought in the food shortage. The findings during the mission, he said, conclusively support the new variant of a different kind of food shortage and agricultural decimation significantly caused by HIV/AIDS.

Posted by: anne on February 18, 2003 08:25 AM

"Many modern drugs are simply too expensive for developing countries and the search has been on for a formula that would provide such medicines to them at much-reduced prices?provided some watertight arrangement preventing their profitable resale in the industrial world could be agreed. Yet in subsequent meetings, America has continued to block a deal acceptable to everyone else."

Hmmm...considering that the U.S. is, by far, the single largest developer/manufacturer of drugs, it's not so surprising that "America has continued to block a deal acceptable to everyone else."

If the author of this article did a poll of how many people would object to taking items out of his home, I bet he'd find that everyone else was much more willing to support the idea than he.

The sale of drugs at below-market prices isn't an example of "free trade." It's an example of "managed trade."

Posted by: Mark Bahner on February 18, 2003 09:55 AM

The Administration has made clear that America will not stop southern African states from copying AIDS drugs. But, there is limited capacity other than in South Africa to make generic drug copies. Rather than allowing imports of copied drugs from India, Brazil or Thailand, the drug companies have been lowering prices.

The point is that millions of southern Africans are dying but to fearfully poor to buy drugs unless they are hugely discounted. Even then, the President and Secretary of State have made it clear, we must assist southern Africans.

Imagine what it means for 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 adults 15 to 49 in Namibia or Malawi to be HIV/AIDS positive. We are helping. All other developed countries should do far far far more as well.

Posted by: anne on February 18, 2003 10:24 AM

Getting the record straight - America has seemed more sympathetic to the dire health problems in southern Africa, than have other developed countries. What am I missing? Where are the French and Germans and Swiss and Swedes and British and Canadians and Japanese and Chinese and Taiwanese and Malaysians and on and on....

Posted by: anne on February 18, 2003 11:13 AM

The Doha round will fail because its time for the 1st world countries to give it up and we won't. Uraguay was a terrible deal for the global south and only passed with the assuarances that the next round would contain major first world concessions on agriculture, textiles, and intellectual property. The US and Europe are not going to make these sacrifices, so the round will fail. The Bush administration has been active in increasing protectionism in all these areas, with help from farm state democrats. Recall the omnibus farm bill, the slap-down of Pakistani calls for textile trade, the extension of weird IP rules to third world agriculture. Every leader in the first world who speaks out for free trade is a liar and a moral hypocrite. The unfairly maligned anti-globalization movement is on the side of giving the developing world a better deal. The so-called free traders are really for US corporate domination of international economics.

To paraphrase Alec Baldwin, Sex and free trade are like a Chinese dinner--its not over till you _both_ get your cookies.

Posted by: biz on February 18, 2003 12:21 PM

What leverage in bargaining for freer trade can the poorer nations use? This is disturbing.

Posted by: randall on February 18, 2003 01:33 PM

anne, its true that this admin has made lots of noise about Southern Africa's health problems. But its deeds, not words that count. And the US on trade and foreign aid talks a lot and does disgracefully little.

Neo-cons prefer to spend trillions on a defence establishment which is far in excess of any conceivable defensive need, rather than actually trying to make the world a more peaceful and prosperous place.

Posted by: derrida derider on February 18, 2003 07:21 PM

Why are the countries in Southern Africa being destroyed by AIDS? Because the people there have not done what is necessary to slow the spread of AIDS. The culture is opposed to safe sex and people like the leader of Uganda (I think it was Uganda) have said homosexuality does not exist in his country, so it does not need to be discussed. And in no way am I implying that AIDS is a homosexual disease, I am just trying to show what the thinking is over there regarding issues of sexuality.

I like to see America help when it can, but only when other countries are willing to meet us in the middle. We can ship a ton of condoms to Africa but who is going to make people wear them. I would much rather see the money Bush offered spent in our country on the mentally ill, or the jobless, or even debt reduction. Our country changed its ways on safe sex in the 1980's & 1990's. When southern Africa does the same, then I will offer assistance.

Posted by: Dan on February 18, 2003 08:56 PM


Our country has not changed its ways on safe sex that much. Note the newly rising syphilis rates and the reversal of the decline in new AIDS cases. How did we get a handle on AIDS? With the drugs. Period. Not because our country changed its ways, but because our country got the medicines.

What does Southern Africa need? The drugs. What don't they need? Paternalistic moralizing from first worlders like Dan who have no conception of what they are talking about.

Posted by: biz on February 18, 2003 10:34 PM

"What does Southern Africa need? The drugs. What don't they need? Paternalistic moralizing from first worlders like Dan"

Isn't that rich! It reminds me of the homeless guy asking for food, and then who turned down a plate because he was a vegetarian (and yes that did happen to a friend of mine in Berkeley). If people ask for my money, I will provide input on how it is or is NOT spent and the reasons why.

As far as I know nobody has been cured of HIV/AIDS. We have slowed the rate of death with drugs but we have slowed the rate of its spread by changing our actions. If you think this country hasn't changed sexually between 1979 and 2003 you need to get out more.

Posted by: Dan Jordan on February 19, 2003 07:50 AM

Dan Jordan's comments show that he lacks both compassion and practicality. Recall that this thread is about free trade, and the failure of the US to compromise on a variety of free trade issues, including Intellectual Property protection.

Dan seems to think IP is a divinely inspired human right. I don't. I believe that it is soley a social institution. As such, it must respond to social reality. The notion that allowing for exceptions to the IP regime is equivalent to the US giving "handouts" to southern Africa is intellectually vacuous and morally abhorrant. There is no Southern African market for American manufactured AIDS drugs. They can't afford them. Keeping these drugs from them does nothing to promote progress in science.

Dan wants us to stand by and wait till the southern African countries undergo a societal revolution that brings them into line with his values. He is in for a long wait, and in this time literally millions of people will die unnecessarily. Of course sexual attitudes have changed in America over the last twenty years. We have a fine education system, and an integrated public health system. Even with these advantages, our infection rates for AIDS and Syphilis are creeping upwards again. Southern Africa does not have these things. They need the medicines.

This comes down to an argument about responsibility. America has a moral duty to show leadership. The Global Justice movement seeks to push America and Europe into accepting more responsibility, showing more compassion, instead of using their immense power to push their own interests. I realize this is a tough sell, but there it is.

Posted by: biz on February 19, 2003 08:35 AM

Biz, I was a bit off topic by bringing up Bush's foreign aid expenditures during a discussion of trade. I actually don't have a problem with copied drugs being sold in Africa (as long as precautions are taken to prevent arbitrage in the industrialized world). I do object to America paying for such efforts, because I am less compassionate than you. And also because if Africa doesn't change its sexual attitudes we will permanently be paying for drugs for Africa. A short-term band aid without a long-term solution lacks practicality.

"Dan wants us to stand by and wait till the southern African countries undergo a societal revolution that brings them into line with his values."

Do I want to bring Africa into line with my values or into line with the realities of science? If a man banged his head on a wall and complained of a sore head, would you not advise him to stop banging his head on a wall?

"America has a moral duty to show leadership"

Leadership involves changing the course of action by others, not standing-by and offering handouts.

Posted by: Dan on February 19, 2003 09:52 AM

December 2001

663,815,000 total population of sub-Saharan
291,310,000 population of adults 15 to 49.

28,500,000 sub-Saharan Africans HIV/AIDS
26,000,000 adults 15 to 49. 9.0% adult rate.
15,000,000 women 15 to 49. 57.7% of
2,600,000 children 0 to 14.

22,000,000 - 35,000,000 range of sub-Saharan
Africans HIV/AIDS positive.

6.41 - 11.39% range of women 15 to 24
3.13 - 5.56% range of men 15 to 24 infected.

19,400,000 deaths estimated for sub-Saharan
Africa's adults and children of diseases
caused by AIDS from beginning of epidemic to
end 2001.

2,200,000 deaths of Africans from diseases
caused by AIDS in 2001.
500,000 deaths of children.

1,300,000 - 2,300,000 range of deaths for
380,000 - 650,000 range of deaths for

3,400,000 Africans newly infected in 2001.
700,000 children newly infected.

11,000,000 orphans cumulatively at end
2001. An orphan is described as a child who
by 15 has had a mother or both parents die
of diseases caused by AIDS. Mothers
generally are the leading care takers of
Africa's children.

44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
37 countries studied.

20% or more adults HIV positive in 7 African
11% or more HIV positive in 12 countries.
8% or more HIV positive in 15 countries.
5% or more HIV positive in 24 countries.

Posted by: anne on February 19, 2003 10:35 AM

There are 44 countries in southern Africa, hundreds of ethnicities, and more than 660 million people. Africans are struggling with and against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in any number of ways. Dramatic efforts are being made to slow the spread of the disease and to care for those who are directly and indirectly effected. Think however of the magnitude of the problems, think of the limit of resources, think of how AIDS creates its own dynamic of poverty which makes it all the harder to lessen the ravages.

Africans are making progress in the struggle with and against the AIDS epidemic. They need direct assistance and indirect trade incentives and as President Bush avowed we simply must help.

Posted by: anne on February 19, 2003 10:50 AM

I'm having a hard time figuring out how free trade is going to change maladaptive sexual behavior in Africa.

Maybe someone can spell it out for me.

Dan Makes sense. $50 a year per capita for condoms and sex ed. or thousands of $ a year for pharmaceuticals that don't prevent or cure, but merely prolong life.

It can't be any simpler....practice safe sex and you won't get AIDS.

At the risk of sounding racist (which I am not) if these people can't get it and aren't willing to change their behavior then why should we enable a disfunctional culture to continue being disfunctional?

In psychtherapeutic circle that's called co-dependence.

If you give hungry people fish they become dependent. If you give them a fishing rod..........

Safe sex education has worked in this country. It seems that the availability of life prolonging drugs has partially negated the positive results. People prone to risky behavior have a tendency to discount the future at a faster rate. Therefore, a hideous death many years down the road (due to life prolongation via drugs) has lowered the cost of unsafe sex today; for some.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on February 19, 2003 12:48 PM


What mean spirited comments. What ignorance.

Posted by: cl on February 19, 2003 01:26 PM

"What mean spirited comments. What ignorance."

On the contrary, E. Avedisian is absolutely correct.
AIDS is often a self inflicted disease resulting from promiscuous sexual behavior. That's a cold fact of life. One does not need to be a follower of Jerry Falwell or Pope John Paul II to candidly concede this point.

Posted by: David Thomson on February 19, 2003 03:10 PM

Also, in the spirit of logical objectivity and fairness---I must compliment Bill Clinton for his courageous stand on free trade. Sadly, I can only hope that the George W. Bush will eventually follow his example. It is disgraceful how we treated Pakistan after this nation helped us in Afghanistan.

Posted by: David Thomson on February 19, 2003 03:17 PM

"..mean spirited....ignorance.."

Well, then enlighten me. Show me the error of my ways.

I did ask for someone to spell it out for me.

But just so we're clear, I'm working from the premise that when we are talking economics/government policy (as opposed to say emotionally driven imperatives) we are discussing how to most efficiently allocate scarce resources. Therefore, we are trying to get the most "bang for the buck".

We should be concerned about the health of Africans; for a number of reasons. However, given a finite amount of resources that we can contribute to the cause, I think that spending a large portion on drugs that sustain life for a while *after* HIV/AIDS has been contracted/developed is not the proper use of the resources.

Why? Because the spread of AIDS is almost entirely preventable through through public health (as opposed to pharmaceutical) interventions.

Limited funds could better be used to develop more productive agricultural ventures, to drain malaria infested swamps, to provide immunizations for contageous deseases that are not avoidable by altering behaviors, to provide public health education, to provide education in general, to clear landmines.................the list goes on.....

But the list of programs we should be funding in Africa (as far as I'm concerned) targets problems that will make Africans more self sufficient and healthier/wealthier into the future. This by *preventing* development of medical conditions and building capacity and infrastructure.

You do not build for the future of Africa by providing medicine to those who already have HIV/AIDS. Doing so does nothing to address the the reasons why so many in those countries have the desease.

At some point you do have to ask why. Since the virus cannot be eliminated, the only way to prevent its spread is to have populations avoid contracting it.

There are really only two ways people contract it. 1) unprotected sex (generally with multiple partners) and 2) Sharing needles in the course of using narcotics.

Both of these behaviors seem so absolutely avoidable. To suggest that Africans cannot avoid these behaviors smacks of racism/ignorance more than suggesting that something is maladaptive within those societies that can be changed through relatively affordable public health programs.

I think that we Americans are too fixated on modern medicine's ability to fix broken bodies. In reality, most of the increase in life expectancy and quality of life/health we enjoy is due to improvements in public health, ie. sanitation, oversight of food production, immunizations, public health education, improved diet, etc, etc, etc and all the consequences of being a wealthier nation in general.

Health and wealth exist in a positive feedback loop. However, wealth seems to be the original cause that starts the upward spiral.

We should be providing aid in the forms I mentioned to the youth of Africa; the up and coming generation. It is time to help Africa evolve into a functional modern group of successful democratic countries with an integral role in the global economy.

The generation that now is decimated by AIDS/HIV is lost. A cold hard reality, but a reality nonetheless.

Let's direct our limited aid in a manner that gives the best long term payoff for Africans.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on February 19, 2003 04:18 PM

Oh, god help me...it's bad enough that David T. sometimes draws me into a topic drift, but now I've succumbed to a freaking clown and his parrot side kick.

Posted by: E.Avedisian on February 19, 2003 05:50 PM


C'mon now. Check out the statistics Anne quotes above. How can Africa possibly build wealth and a public health infrastructure _without_ the people infected with AIDS. There's no way Africa will build wealth if we let whole generations perish. Think of the social capital that will be lost. Add to that the fact that sick people a an economic drain whereas healthy people are productive. Remember, this thread is about trade policy. Southern Africa doesn't actually need us to give them the drugs. They just need us to allow cheaper generic drugs from India to go there. Since there is currently only a tiny market for the drugs there now, it will realistically cost us nothing and the drug companies very little. Bang for the buck indeed.

Secondly, to quote Sideshow Mel, "My opinions are as valid as the next man's."


Posted by: BIz on February 19, 2003 11:10 PM

Yes the numbers appear to be of staggeringly awful proportions. However, they roughly parellel the losses in Europe during WWII (30 million dead, millions of orphans, millions maimed..............).

Europe managed to emerge from the ashes of WWII within twenty years.

The AIDS/HIV problem is still on a lesser scale than the great plague that struck Europe in the 1300s.

I bring up these previous tragedies to suggest that, historicaly, human societies have been far more resilient than some AIDS activists would imagine.

The important thing is that Africans stop making themselves susceptible to contracting AIDS.

I reiterate that if we concentrate on the youth of Africa and invest now in infrastructure and capacity development, then the future of Africa (say, twenty years hence) will be secure.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on February 20, 2003 04:23 AM

Mr Avedisian,

Firstly I suggest you do some readings about the
actual effects of the plagues in Europe in the
1300s, and their long-term social and economic effects. Check out, oh I dont know, maybe the knock on effects on European private banking (for example, the fall of the Bardi and Peruzzi).

Secondly, consider whether by making anti-Aids
drugs available you are in fact investing in
infrastructure and capacity development, in that
we get less orphans, less people out of the
workforce looking after dying relatives and less
social dislocation in general.

And when you think IP rights are more important
than people dying in numbers reminiscent of Stalin, Hitler or Mao, then I believe you need to reassess your philosophy.

Ian Whitchurch

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on February 20, 2003 06:18 AM

February 20, 2003

'We Must Be a Nation of Life, Not Death'
By Maggi Barnard - Namibian

Windhoek - GOVERNMENT must make the world a place to live in and not a place to die in, pleaded Anthony Plaatjies, who is HIV positive, at a candlelight vigil at Walvis Bay on Tuesday night.

Three vigils, organised by the Treatment Action Forum, were held - in Windhoek and at Walvis Bay and Opuwo.

The aim was to remember all those who have died from HIV-AIDS and to protest the continuing lack of affordable medication for those still living with the disease.

Plaatjies, also the Chairperson of the Confident But Positive Support Group, and two more HIV positive members delivered emotionally charged appeals to Government to start taking action.

"Stop the endless meetings, workshops and conferences and come to our houses, hospitals and clinics to see how we are living and suffering," said Renate Hoeses.

"Until when are you going to continue your meetings, while people are dying? Stop the meetings.

We need drugs urgently".

Hoeses said she had disclosed her status hoping it would give her access to drugs.

"There have been lots of promises by Government, but no progress".

Beverley Figaji, Director of the Walvis Bay Multi-Purpose Centre, said people were still denied access to affordable treatment.

"We have tested the system.

We know," she said, citing the example of one the members of the Positive But Confident.

A tearful Herlyn Uiras (18) told the more than 100 people at the vigil that their group had lost six people over the past couple of months.

"We are attending funerals just about every weekend.

There is no cure for AIDS, but treatment will prolong our lives.

I am asking Government to please help us prolong our lives".

In his plea to Government, Plaatjies said, "Let Namibia be a country we can look up to, not a country of death".

Hafeni Ndemula, a National Councillor, accepted petitions from three speakers saying "Government has heard your message".

He said although Government had put a strategic plan in place to address HIV-AIDS, "Government is also about bureaucracy.

Therefore you have to continue to put pressure on the process".

He told those present that they had made a difference, just as Moureen Katjatako made a difference.

"She spread the gospel of HIV-AIDS and left her message with us".

Katjatako devoted the last years of her life to the HIV-AIDS cause and was the founder of the Positive but Confident group at Walvis Bay.

She passed away in July.

Posted by: anne on February 20, 2003 09:59 AM

Why are you all so hard on each other? Collectively you point to a mixed strategy that surpasses any single view.

Posted by: Jim Rogers on February 24, 2003 10:34 AM
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