Blog / 21 February 2013

Trade agenda minister Ploumen decisive for fair and sustainable development

Trade agenda minister Ploumen decisive for fair and sustainable development


At the moment Minister Ploumen is contemplating how to shape her policies. She has said several times that in her opinion Trade and Aid combine perfectly. That may be true, if she treats our foreign trade smartly. Of course the interests of our companies should be promoted. But at the same time Ploumen is in the position to combat extreme poverty, human rights violations and degeneration of the living environment of millions of people.


How could she achieve that? I propose three actions:


Firstly, pull negotiations between the EU and Southern countries on agricultural trade out of shadowy backrooms so action can be taken when farmers in the south are pushed out of their own markets by cheap, subsidized tomatoes or chicken from Europe.


Secondly, handle bilateral investment treaties with other countries (BITs) differently. The Netherlands currently has a 100 of them. Presently these treaties provide only for rights of Dutch investors but impose no obligation on them. These BIT’s cause the government of a southern country to be fearful of new policies. Implementing better legislation on environment, agriculture or labor rights can lead to Dutch entrepreneurs demanding huge amounts of compensation for lost revenues. Fair BITs provide policy freedom for partner governments. They impose prudence upon our entrepreneurs wherever they are active. And the obligation to respect basic rights of the local population concerning land, water, food and the environment should always be inserted.


Finally, convince fellow members of the cabinet of the notion that their policies are more important for fair and green development in southern countries than the controversial 0.7% of our GNP budget for development. If we keep spending the other 99.3% of our GNP without considering consequences abroad, the effectiveness of our aid, trade and investments intended for development in southern countries will decrease to zero.


Considering Trade and Aid, it is important to realize that the Netherlands is not only part of the solution, but also part of the problem. With our trade it is possible to achieve enormous advance in the fields of justice and sustainability. Minister Ploumen can achieve that progress. But handing out a large amount of money to Dutch companies with operations abroad is not enough. And please let minister Ploumen not be fooled by the frequent assumption that ALL trade leads to development.




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