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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #160: September 16, 2003

Pyrrhic victory for poor as Cancun WTO talks fail

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Pyrrhic victory for poor as Cancun WTO talks fail"
(Reuters) Forbes


Trade people are nice people. They are not like competition people who always accuse others for unfair business practices. Nor they are like security people who constantly monitor everyone for undesirable conducts. They are not even like politicians who for the sake of collecting votes tend to ignore the future of the people they are supposed to be representing.

Apparently, it was because the theme was too complicated, with so much for everyone to give up to drawing up an agreement, that the WTO Ministerial meeting in Cancun failed with no one blamed or accused, as everyone tried but it was bad luck, so let' everyone not lose hope and keep trying.

The article on the whole laments the failure for developing countries, that the failure of the meeting is a grave loss for those countries, and where it seems the poor countries won the arguments against the rich is merely "Pyrrhic victory."

In a sense, this is true. Many small countries were either too selfish in promoting their own argument without the flexibility of listening to others, or were merely trying to acquire largest share of aid and assistance from the rich countries. Could they be condemned as, then, foiling the negotiation? Technically and partly, yes, but there was a real culprit who must be accused, that happens to be Japan.

Having grown to one of the largest economies in the world, Japan still does not recognize what responsibilities it must bear, often along with other economic giants, to be a respectable member of the international community. Its mentality is still that of least developed countries when it comes to trade, which keeps pressing for opening up the market worldwide for products that it wants to sell, while firmly shutting the door for foreign imports that might compete with domestic products.

Some may say this is too harsh a view, that the numbers show Japan has one of the lowest tariffs and least restrictions on trade in the world. But how this has come about is not because Japan believed in free trade. It was that when Japan wanted to export a car, it was beneficial to allow the parts to be imported freely. Or, if there would be no one else in the world producing expensive cameras, barriers to import cameras would be demolished, for the purpose of demanding other countries to do the same, and so that it would help it to look liberalized in averaged terms.

The article provides Japan and Mexico as examples, saying that they can live without WTO. Mexico seems to be doing all right in this respect as the article reports that it already has 32 bilateral trade agreements. But Japan, after its quasi-FTA, referred to such because it has virtually no provision for farm produce, with Singapore, there has been no significant progress made. FTA negotiation with Mexico has broken up because Japan refused to lower its market for pork.

Japan is already the world's largest importer of farm products, and its self-sufficiency rate of food is 40%, the lowest among industrialized countries. Some cite this as an attempt to justify import restrictions. However, and unfortunately, it is the other way around. What Japan needs as its food policy -- what Japan needs is a food policy, indeed -- is to relax its farm imports drastically, so as to seek and secure ways of food flow from abroad, which as a consequence would benefit the poor nations and cultivate new markets for Japan's products. It would also stimulate and encourage Japan's agriculture to increase productivity that could never be achieved by pampering them.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications