Vatican to UN — Get Serious on Social Justice

Rich Nations to End Protectionism, Poor Nations to End Corruption

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NEW YORK, NOV. 7, 2003 ( What follows is a statement delivered Wednesday by Archbishop Celestino Migliore before the Second Committee on Agenda Item 91-a: «International Trade and Development.»

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Mr. Chairman, The Holy See’s primary purpose in participating in international fora is to help promote the human person’’s dignity and contribute to the common good of the whole human family.

In the area of economic relations, and especially in commercial matters, the Holy See advocates an equitable and just system which fosters the human person’s dignity and integral development. There’s no doubt markets are at the center of an economy and that, to a large extent, equitable international markets are the solution to many problems less (economically) developed countries face. But markets of themselves don’t solve every social problem, including those related to unemployment and abject poverty.

At times, in accord with the solidarity principle, it may be necessary for governments to play a more important role in the economy. Thus the relationship between governments and markets should be viewed as complementary rather than competitive or even antagonistic. (At the same time) The principle of subsidiarity must always be respected and increasingly applied. The removal of artificial restraints on the flow of goods and, to some extent, of services, can have a stimulating effect on an economy, leading to greater efficiency and economic growth. Still, change can be disruptive and social distortions may occur with negative effects –especially on the economies of less developed countries –– distortions that may require government measures to ease hardship and suffering, primarily of the poor, forestalling possible recession.

International trade rules must not hinder the ability of governments to adopt such measures. Trade policy needs to be organized in a way contributive to sustainable economic development. For their part, less developed countries must also take steps needed to avoid corrupt and unethical practices which, in the past, have affected negatively their development process and the well-being of their populations.

If not, the positive benefits of a well ordered international trade system will not be felt by the poor in less developed countries. The Holy See is always supportive of all efforts made by the international community geared to the well-being of every member of the human family.The recent meeting of treasury secretaries in Cancun (Mexico) 14 September 2003 seems to have jeopardized the prevailing optimism at Doha among developing countries. The hope among poor countries that richer ones would reduce trade-distorting farm subsidies, slash tariffs on farm goods and eliminate agricultural export subsidies didn’t occur.

Neither were industrial tariffs on textiles cut, nor were developing countries’ concerns regarding special and differential treatment, or implementation, addressed. Given the tense situation prevailing during the Cancun meeting, the possibility of compromise between rich and poor countries became extremely difficult. It’s to be hoped the events of Cancun won’t jeopardize the possibility of building a strong, more just, multilateral system in areas of trade and development for the near future. Let me end these remarks by saying that, «models which are really and truly effective can only arise within a framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with each another» (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #43).

Regarding this task the Holy See wishes to repeat its position recognizing the positive value of the market and free enterprise ; while at the same time pointing out how these must be oriented toward the common good. What’s needed is a greater degree of international solidarity among all the world’s nations, and the abandonment of interest groups capable of promoting their own selfish goals as they disregard the common good.

At the same time, corrupt practices, in both developed and developing countries, must be curtailed so the fruits of trade and healthy development may be enjoyed by all sectors of society –– rich and poor –– and not just by the privileged few.

This is a challenge all nations, in a spirit of solidarity, are obliged to share.Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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