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Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): I thank the official Opposition for securing this debate. This is a very good day on which to have it; I am only sad that they could not negotiate the 7 o'clock slot, because many hon. Members are outside enjoying the Mexican wave and the trishaws that I was lucky enough to enjoy yesterday. They are out there meeting their constituents, so it would have been much better to have had the debate afterwards so that they could have participated.
Today's lobby is one of the biggest ever; it is estimated that 10,000 people are out there in the sunshine. The Jubilee 2000 campaign was successful because it was a broad coalition that attracted all-party support. Likewise, I know that the Trade Justice Movement is a fantastic coalition of more than 40 non-governmental organisations that is attracting all-party support. The Liberal Democrats will certainly support the motion and also the Government amendment. Hon. Members can make of that what they like, but that is what we will do, as we do not want any division on these issues.
I have received hundreds of postcards from my constituents and thousands more have flowed in to all MPs during the past few weeks. An all-party early-day motion on this subject has been tabled today and I hope that all hon. Members will sign it. We know that the European heads of state are meeting very soon this month, the G8 summit is at the end of June, the world summit on sustainable development will take place in Johannesburg in September and the world trade talks are continuing all the time. This is a vital time for developing countries.
We all know that many factors affect developing countries. We have rehearsed them many times in the Chamber. They include civil war and conflict, the arms trade, lack of education, health care, AIDS, HIV, lack of clean water, environmental disastersto which our greedy consumption in the west often contributesa lack of decent Governments, and corruption. The list goes on. We distribute aid, but not nearly enough. The proportional increase in the aid given to developing countries is very welcome, but the amount is not yet nearly enough. To introduce a dissenting note, I am still very disappointed that the Conservatives seem to have abandoned the 0.7 per cent. of gross national product target on aid for developing countries. That is very sad and I hope that they review the matter in due course.
Wherever I go in the developing world, I hear the same message: "Your aid is welcome, but if only you would let us have free and fair trade"I emphasise the word "fair""we would develop more quickly."
Throughout the 19th century, we exploited our colonies, using them for labour, raw materials and things that could make our lives better. The rich countries continue to exploit them through unfair trade agreements. The European Union and the USA in particular have a
A 1 per cent. increase in trade for African countries would generate $70 billion or five times what Africa receives in aid. Import tariffs cost developing countries $100 billion, which is twice as much as they receive in aid. What nonsensewe give with one hand and we take away with the other. Last July, in Zanzibar, prior to the World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha, developing countries called on the rich countries to abolish subsidies for their products and open their markets, but there has been little progress on that. The Uruguay round, which the Secretary of State mentioned, was good news at the time because it committed developing countries and rich countries to a reduction in tariffs and subsidies. With the general agreement on trade in servicesGATSit got the developing countries to open up their services to private companies.
To a large extent the developing countries have done so. But did the rich countries keep their side of the bargain? Did they heck. One problem is that tariffs and subsidies remain, and GATS is still a subject of great contention. However, I do not agree that services such as supplying water must always be controlled by the public sector. I recently visited Ghana to look at its Government's proposal to privatise the water supply in Accra. The public sector there is certainly not delivering clean water to the people of the city. The situation is appalling, because 52 per cent.a rather optimistic estimateof the water supply is lost or goes to cowboys who sell it to the poor at extortionate prices. The argument that a multinational company may make water even more expensive for the poor does not wash, if that is the right word. I think that it could be cheaper under a privatised system.
Clare Short: I have had a briefing on this. GATS is a bottom-up agreementcountries open up services as they wish, and there is no requirement to privatise education and health care. Privatisation is the only way to get the investment that those countries need in things like banking, tourism, telecommunications and services such as water under good regulatory arrangements. I agree that the campaign saying that there should not be a voluntary scheme to open up services in that way is misguided.
Dr. Tonge: I thank the Secretary of State for her contribution. The key to privatising Accra's water supply is the regulatory service. I admit that I was worried about that, and the Ghanaians will need assistance in regulating services to provide water.
The common agricultural policy is a bone of contention. It is another gross violation of international justice. The European Union spends $41 billion on agricultural subsidies. Rich farmers in rich countries continue to be subsidised and to flood developing countries with their produce, forcing their poor farmers out of business. I hope that we shall get some good news on that front in due course, because it is time that the common agricultural policy was looked at.
As the Secretary of State told us, the European Union introduced the everything but arms initiative to give at least 49 of the least developed countries tariff-free and quota-free access to our markets. However, it quickly became the everything but arms, rice, sugar and bananas initiative, thus re-erecting barriers to some of the main exports from developing countries. Before Conservative Members get too self-righteous and pleased with themselves about their newly discovered philanthropy, I remind hon. Members that it was lobbying by many Conservative Members on behalf of the sugar beet industry that led to sugar being excluded from the EU initiative. We shall not forget that, and it is worth remembering. They cannot preach free trade and call for trade liberalisation, as they are doing today, while lobbying to protect our own domestic interests.
Why does that remind me of the United States? In May, the US, having acknowledged that poverty indirectly leads to terrorism, passed a Farm Bill that will increase subsidies to American farmers by 70 per cent. over the next 10 years. As I discovered on my recent visit to Ghana, northern Ghana used to produce lots of rice, which was eaten by people all over Ghana. Urban Ghanaians now eat American polished white rice, which is ludicrous. Their farmers have no markets at home or abroad and are in poverty. In 1998, 68 per cent. of Ghana's labour force was in agriculture. What are they to do in the short and medium term to fill that gap? It is a mad, mad situation.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): Does my hon. Friend agree that protectionist elements in Europe give the American Administration an excuse for introducing their Farm Bill? This morning, I had a conversation with an American Congressman who was here in the House, and he said that the protectionism adopted by several European states through the CAP provides an alibi for the Farm Bill. That is a problem.
Dr. Tonge: I agree. I do not exclude Europe from blame. Both the European Union and the US have to search their souls on this issue. If we mean what we say about opening up our markets and bringing developing countries into the real world to share in its prosperity, we have to give a little on our side. That cannot be done if we continually protect our own interests. I accept the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) in so far as sugar beet farmers would have a tough time if their market fell, but could we not consider other things that they could grow? The biofuels industry represents one possibility.
Mr. Curry: I hope that the hon. Lady tried to disabuse the American Congressman by pointing out that when the United States introduced its Freedom to Farm Bill, which liberalised the American system, the CAP was a great deal
Dr. Tonge: That point has already been made, and I want to move on. However, I emphasise that we must all recognise that something has to give if developing countries are to be relieved of their poverty.
I shall not have time to deal with many other aspects of world trade and its effect on developing countries, such as joined-up government. This morning, my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) noted that there is no point in the Department for International Development having wonderful policies based on sustainable development when there are shenanigans such as those between the Department of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Defence, Barclays bank and British Aerospace on the air traffic control system for Tanzania. We must tackle that aspect of trade and ensure that all Departments tackle the core theme of sustainable development. We cannot relieve Tanzania of debt only to plunge it immediately in £28 million more debt by selling it an inappropriate system that will benefit our industry but not Tanzania.
I shall not go into the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, because I confess that I do not understand the ramifications of the TRIPs agreement. The arguments about the problems have been well rehearsed. Many Liberal Democrats worry that the part privatisation of the Commonwealth Development Corporation has caused it to take its eye off the ball in the interests of attracting shareholders. Agriculture, especially agribusiness, in the poorest countries has consequently suffered.
The activities of the multinational companies require a debate. Such companies probably constitute one of the greatest forces for good or evil in the world. Huge companies that wield massive power and also make much needed investment in developing countries to improve their trade are part of globalisation. However, we need to ensure that they behave decently and sensibly, and stick to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines wherever they operate.
I want to speak about an important factor that the Secretary of State mentioned. Developing countries must be helped to participate more effectively in the World Trade Organisation and the WTO must commit itself with the rest of the world to the international development targets. I understand that only 30 of the poorest countries are members of the WTO. All developing countries face major difficulties representing themselves there. They do not have the capacity or expertise, and I welcome the initiatives by the Secretary of State and the Department to try to build such capacity in sub-Saharan Africa and its regional organisations. I hope that when the Minister sums up, she will tell us more about the enhanced integrated framework pilot schemes, which will operate in Cambodia and Madagascar, and how those countries can represent themselves better.
In the north, we get increasingly richer by protecting our markets while forcing the poorest countries to open theirs to our trades and services, making them poorer. We have declared a war on terrorism when what we really want is a war on poverty.