Presiding over UNCTAD15, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has advocated a complete revamp in the way in which the global trade system is run.
She described the current system as unfair and outdated and one which supports the bullying of small developing countries.
She made the comments Wednesday morning while delivering remarks at the conference’s Ministerial Roundtable on Scaling up Financing for Development.
Mottley said: “Today the international system is facing its biggest test since the establishment of the Bretton Woods institutions. And why? Because the frontline of trade dependency crosses the frontline of the climate crisis. We will all be impacted adversely by the climate crisis but there is a frontline and a backline for now with the climate crisis.
“Let me give you a report on the international system from this frontline. And what do I have to tell you; one, it is in retreat; two, it is being seen as irrelevant to the needs and dreams of ordinary people at best and at worst a playground or a battleground for big countries to jockey for relative position. And this is partly because the tools and mechanisms of the international trade system are really out of date.
“To rescue the international system we need a new trade agenda that works for the whole world…We need a new world, trading in new ways. We need a new trade agenda that is fair and level, yet supports development and without that the international system regrettably will become irrelevant to our people.
“It will break down and the consequences will be severe, because if it does we all know peace will be the first casualty and we’ve already seen evidence of that regrettably around the world where coups, which we thought were a thing of the past, have raised their heads regrettably in Africa.”
The UNCTAD15 chair said the bulk of trading was not being done via airports or seaports, but through the internet.
But she said only a select few were benefiting from this.
“If you are not selling on Amazon, or Alibaba, or Facebook or Google or the Apple app store or others, you’re not selling, you’re not reaching the market. The gateway to the world is really now through these private oligopoly,” Mottley pointed out.
“Who else will ensure equal and fair access? Who is going to police the algorithms that channel that traffic? We are witnessing the greatest privatization of trade infrastructure and there is no regulatory framework to ensure trade and development.”
Mottley said lessons should also be learnt from the debacle around the distributions of vaccines.
She also pointed to the fact that freer trade and agriculture had brought cheaper food and that trade finance and debt were inextricably linked. (RB)