A Call for Economic Equity Between Rich and Poor Countries

Interview with Vatican Delegate at Doha Conference

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DOHA, Qatar, NOV. 9, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The World Trade Organization summit opened today in this Middle Eastern state amid strict security.

The Vatican published a Note, on the occasion of the summit, the first since the 1999 Seattle debacle, calling the attention of the 142 member-countries to some of the problems stemming from the existing world economic order, and urging the reduction of the growing imbalance between the world´s North and South.

In an interview on Vatican Radio, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who heads the Vatican delegation at Doha, explained the proposals presented.

–Q: Why did the Vatican publish this document on the occasion of the WTO summit?

–Archbishop Martin: The Note recognizes the importance of the World Trade Organization, its importance in the present international order, but it also points out the responsibility of this organization to change its direction and take more seriously the problems of the poorest countries.

It is a text that puts all the work of this organization in the broader context of responsibility for development, guided by the principle underlined by the Holy Father, according to whom the economy, as a dimension of life, must be integrated in the broader view of the nature of the human person and the needs of the one human family.

–Q: This invitation comes at a time when the economy seems to be burdened by excessive weight …

–Archbishop Martin: I would say that today there is a tendency to place economic factors in the front line and to lose sight of the fact that economic growth is a good which, like anything else, must be put at the service of the whole human family.

The idea of equitable and mutual growth must be promoted; otherwise, this growth will serve a small part of humanity. This would be risky even from the economic point of view.

In the history of humanity, we have the classic example of the desire to grow without limitations. This is the story in the Bible of the Tower of Babel. People thought they could create a tower which would lead them no less to heaven, without thinking of the situation of the people around them.

The result of that experience was that, not only did the tower collapse, but new divisions were created among the people. Therefore, growth is necessary, but this growth must be conscious of the needs of the whole of humanity.

–Q: You said that the moment has also arrived to take more seriously the situation of poor countries. Specifically, in what areas?

–Archbishop Martin: First of all, it must be kept in mind that, when the same norms are beginning to be applied in a regular way to people who start with radically different points of departure, there is a risk of consolidating certain irregularities and inequalities.

Therefore, the point of departure must be realigned: Poor countries must be fully integrated, and not be burdened with virtually insurmountable obstacles.

For example, there are cases of poor countries that have effectively opened their markets and are then faced with new forms of protectionism by rich countries that impose high taxes on agricultural products or textiles, in which poor countries would have advantages in equitable conditions.

A two-speed system cannot be created, especially when a poor country
[suffers] the disadvantage.

–Q: What does the Vatican hope for from this conference?

–Archbishop Martin: I think that the present moment reflects more than ever the need to have an «inclusive» system of international trade, where all can participate effectively from the same point of departure.

Either this ministerial conference becomes a clear sign that a world is desired in which all can participate, in which there is equitable participation, or existing divisions will be accentuated.

In this connection, it can be said that on this occasion the credibility of the multilateral trade system is at stake. Of course, it should be noted that progress has been made. During negotiations in recent weeks, the positions of developing countries have been taken more into consideration.

However, there is still much to be done, especially in the preparation of programs of technical assistance for poor countries, and in offering funds for the implementation of those programs.

In the long term, the human person is the moving force of a modern economy, but investments in people and social infrastructure must be improved, to enable the people themselves to contribute their creativity [and] innovation.

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