Thursday, October 3, 2013

The impact of trade on development

Opinion article by: Manuela Ramírez Cárdenas ( *
International Business and Political Science Student at Universidad EAFIT, Colombia

After the Director-General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, suggested at the organization’s 8th Ministerial Conference in 2011 the importance of the discussion of the world economy and trade related issues by the WTO and members of the multilateral trade system, the Panel on Defining the Future of Trade was created in 2012.

The panel met officially three times and held several meeting with different stakeholders to discuss issues such as the transformations of the world economy, the challenges of global trade opening during the 21st century, trade patterns, the current and future drivers of trade, and how trade can contribute to economic growth, sustainable development, poverty relief and job creation. The report of the panel titled The Future of Trade: The Challenges of Convergence was published earlier in 2013..

There are several aspects that are important to highlight about this report. The first one is that trade is without a doubt a positive practice that if implemented well can lead to growth, sustainable development, cooperation among states, and can have a direct positive impact on civil society. However, there is also the indisputable fact that some developing countries, since the opening of trade, have been negatively impacted and the gap of inequality between the rich and the poor grows wider every day.

The root of that problem is not trade itself; it is the fact that some developing countries lack certain conditions that are fundamental if a country wants to take advantage of the benefits of trade, among them: infrastructure, an educated population that can adapt to the changes and needs of the labor market, access to electricity, etc. Also, these countries face several local challenges, the first being that in most cases the local economy and industry is often precarious, and when faced with competitors that have a strong economic and productive system, then the outcome will unsurprisingly be negative. Additionally, some of these countries are plagued by corruption and governments that apply short-term policies that won´t be efficient in the long-term.

In the global scenario of open trade, the actions of governments become fundamental for a country that seeks to take advantage of the benefits offered by the multilateral trade system. Governments must create long term policies (perhaps adapt strategies that have been successful for other countries) that will allow them to create capacity building, educational opportunities, job creation, infrastructure, but most importantly they must implement policies that will allow them to develop locally first, so they can eventually become competitive in the global market and hopefully alleviate poverty and improve the living standards of the civil society.


World Trade Organization. (2013). The Future of Trade: The Challenges of Convergence. Report of the Panel on Defining the Future of Trade.

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