Free Market Must Lead to Drop in Poverty, Says Holy See

Official Addresses a World Trade Organization Summit

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HONG KONG, DEC. 22, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See insists that the system of international commercial rules must become a means to achieve the integral development of all peoples and the reduction of poverty.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N. offices in Geneva, delivered that message when he addressed the ministerial summit of the World Trade Organization, held in Hong Kong from Dec. 13-18.

“Free trade is not an end in itself but rather a means for better living standards and the human development of people at all levels,” said the prelate in his address delivered in English.

“The universal destination of the goods of the earth requires that the poor and marginalized should be the focus of particular concerns,” he added.

Given the objectives the conference set itself, Archbishop Tomasi said the Holy See was “confident that a sense of responsibility and solidarity with the most disadvantaged will prevail, so that the narrow interests and the logic of power will be set aside.”

Common good

“The Holy See,” he said, “recognizes the benefit of an equitable and participatory multilateral system of trade relations directed to attaining and developing the common good. A spirit of solidarity among all countries and people should replace the ceaseless competition that aims to achieve and defend privileged positions in international trade.

“Protectionism too often favors already privileged segments of society. Effective multilateralism, on the other hand, is an inclusive process which acknowledges that at the core of all social and economic relations, and hence of trade relations, is the human person, with dignity and inalienable human rights.”

“Therefore, a rules-based trade system or, better, a fair system of trade rules is indispensable,” Archbishop Tomasi added.

“The Holy See,” he continued, “recognizes the benefit of an equitable and participatory multilateral system of trade relations directed to attaining and developing the common good.

“A fair system of trade rules should be shaped according to the level of economic development of the member states and give explicit support and special and differential treatment to the poorest countries.”

“When the levels of development of the members are excessively unequal, the consent of the parties may not be sufficient to guarantee the justice of their agreement,” the Holy See representative said.

Economic dictatorship

Quoting Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical “Populorum Progressio,” he said: “Trade relations can no longer he based solely on the principle of free, unchecked competition, for it very often creates an economic dictatorship.”

“Free trade can be called just only when it conforms to the demands of social justice,” stressed the archbishop.

“The more the rights and needs of the poor and the weak are taken into account, the greater becomes the possibility for justice and peace in our world, two indispensable conditions for sustainable development and for the alleviation of poverty,” he added. “These two goals constitute a common ambition to which all members can aspire as the negotiations go forward: This is a guide for the road ahead.”

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