2005年10月1日 星期六

Turning the Tide: Make Trade Work for Sustainable Development

1.          Hong Kong will be hosting the Sixth Ministerial Conference (MC6) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in December 2005. Substantial resources, to the tune of over HK$200 million, will be devoted by the Hong Kong people to this event. At the same time, enormous expectations are placed on the outcome of the event by countries and peoples all over the world.


2.          It is both the right and responsibility for Hong Kong’s civil society to articulate its views on MC6, and to make the Hong Kong public aware of the potential impact of MC6. It is not enough for Hong Kong to be only a good host to provide the venue and the hospitality, but it is essential for Hong Kong – government, business and civil society alike – to be a responsible host who is prepared to use every means within its control to achieve the most important goal of MC6: make trade work for sustainable development.


3.          The stated aim of WTO is the promotion of trade liberalization. For countries around the world, especially for developing countries, trade liberalization can be a powerful tool for economic growth – a necessary condition for poverty alleviation and for enhancing quality of life. Under certain conditions, trade liberalization can have a positive impact on labour and environmental conditions through a more efficient allocation of resources and increases in productivity, leading to social development and higher wages. It can also contribute towards higher economic growth and inward investment, and create resources which can be used for environmental protection and poverty alleviation. However, none of these impacts are automatic; they depend on the design of the trade regime, the trade policies of individual states, the behaviour of the corporate sector and the choices of consumers.


4.          In the Marrakech Agreement that leads to the establishment of the WTO, it is given a mandate firmly grounded on the principles of sustainable development. In no unambiguous terms, WTO’s mandate is “to raise the living standards, create employment for all and a high and growing income level in real terms, generate effective demand, growth of production, trade and services, while protecting and conserving the environment and to reinforcing the means so to do in a way that is compatible with the parties’ respective needs and concerns at the different levels of economic development’.

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6.          Yet not all trade liberalization will lead to economic growth and not all economic growth will lead to sustainable development. Indeed, in the pursuit of trade liberalization, the disregard of the harmful effects of trade policies and trade-generated growth often works against sustainable development – worsening the plight of the poor and the disadvantaged, as well as damaging the environment and the eco-system. The average world citizen requires 2.3 global hectares to produce what he consumes every year and then to have a place to dump what’s left over. That is 40% more than is sustainable. If, through the spread of unmitigated trade liberalization, the rest of the world were to consume like the developed world, we would need the equivalent of 4 extra Earths.


7.          The current trade regime adopted by the WTO has clearly failed to deliver sustainable development. The benefits of current international trade are unevenly distributed with large gains for rich countries and newly industrialized economies. Rich countries spend US$350 billion per annum on agricultural subsidy which not only prevents farmers in poor countries to increase their incomes through their own labor, but also often aggravates their poverty . Because of the noted absence of environmental sustainability in the design of the current trade regime, the current rate of extinction of plant and animal species, already 1000 times more than the background rate because of human activities, will only accelerate to the detriment of this and future generations.


8.          Trade liberalization can however be re-shaped into a tool for sustainable development. The current phase of negotiation in the WTO, the Doha Round, is recognized by the international community as a “development round” with special focus on the developmental needs of developing countries. The MC 6 in Hong Kong thus presents a unique opportunity to turn the tide in favour of sustainable development. The outcome of MC6 – whether successful or not, will affect the lives of billions of people. The stakes are high in Hong Kong .


9.          In its capacity as the host for MC6, the Hong Kong government has a duty not only to ensure the smooth running of the conference, but also use everything within its sphere of influence to encourage and persuade WTO members to make trade work for sustainable development. The fulfillment of the promises of this development round, including the installment of a fair trade regime and the promotion of responsible trade practices, is the single largest contribution that Hong Kong can make in the WTO negotiations, potentially for the benefit of billions of people who at present are either unable to enjoy the benefits of trade liberalization, or are suffering from its harmful effects.


10.      For the business sector in Hong Kong , MC6 presents a valuable opportunity to review, rethink and re-adjust its trade practices in the context of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. Hong Kong’s private sector, especially those in key positions of  global supply chains, should embrace the concept and the practice of responsible trade – trade practices that support international human rights, uphold dignified labour conditions, respect local culture, promote environmental responsibilities, and manage natural resources in a sustainable manner.  The leaders of the Hong Kong business community should take this chance to affirm their commitment to responsible trade.


11.      Hong Kong’s civil society can play an important role by raising public awareness on the role of WTO, the inadequacies of the current trade regime, the significance of the development round, and the possibilities that may open up in MC6. Not only is it important for civil society organizations to position themselves as a constructive force in respect of the official outcome of MC6,  but it is of equal importance to promote in the local community the practice of sustainable consumption that supports responsible trade practices and a fair trade regime.


12.      We call on all stakeholders alike – government, business and NGOs – to seize the opportunity of MC6 to make trade work for sustainable development. This is a rare chance for Hong Kong to live up to its claim of Asia’s world city, and for the Hong Kong public to stand up proud as global citizens.



扭轉乾坤: 以貿易推動可持續發展

1.                              香港將於本年十二月主辦世界貿易組織第六屆部長級會議。香港為此需投放的資源預計多達港幣二億元。同時,全球各地都密切關注及期待此會議所帶來的成果。


2.                              香港公民社會有權利也有義務表達其對是次會議的意見及令香港普羅市民得悉會議的潛在影響。香港作為主辦單位不單只是提供場地及接待,更重要的是使香港各界包括政府、商界及公民社會等各方面均能在充足準備下盡力達成第六屆部長級會議最重要的目的 ─ 使貿易促進可持續發展。


3.                              世界貿易組織主張促進自由貿易。對世界上很多國家,尤其是發展中國家而言,貿易自由化或許可有效地使經濟增長,最終使貧窮問題及生活水平得以改善。在特定條件下,貿易自由化能對勞工及環境帶來一些正面影響: 如通過提高資源利用效益及生產力的改善,帶動社會發展及工資增長。它亦可刺激經濟增長及內部投資,創造更多資源投入在環境保護及消減貧窮。可是這些正面影響都不是自然而生的,它受到貿易機制的設計、個別國家的貿易政策、企業的商業策略及消費者的選擇等因素所制約。


4.                             促成世界貿易組織成立的馬拉喀什協議確立了可持續發展原則的定位。 它清楚表明,世界貿易組織的目的是「提高生活質素、創造全民就業、增加實際收入、刺激多元需求,促進製造、貿易及服務業的增長,同時又保護環境及加強那些在不同程度的經濟發展下,能合乎各方不同切身需要及期望的措施」


5.                             可是並不是所有自由貿易均能帶來經濟增長,又不是所有經濟增長都能導向可持續發展。事實上,在貿易自由化的進程中,對貿易政策及以貿易帶動增長的負面影響視而不見,是可持續發展的大敵 – 往往使弱勢社群及生態環境成為了犧牲品。地球上每一個人平均需要2.3公頃的土地來製造每年需耗用的資源及棄置產出的廢物。這總需求其實己經超出可持續基數百份之四十。如果不經調節的自由貿易不斷擴展,世界其他地方都像發達國家般消費,那麼我們便需要多4個地球才能應付。


6.                              現行世界貿易組織所採用的貿易機制己被清楚證明不能帶來可持續發展。現時國際貿易帶來的大部分利益都分配不均,讓發達國家及新興工業經濟體系不公平地予取予携。富國每年動用三千五百億美元補貼農業,不單阻碍窮國的農民利用其勞動力增加收入,亦更使貧困情況惡化。因為現行貿易體制的設計中缺乏考慮生態環境的可持續性,使現今動植物的滅絕率因為人類活動而比正常情況高出1,000倍,這將只會禍延我們自己及下一代。


7.                              但貿易自由化是可以被改造成有利可持續發展的工具。世貿最近一輪的談判,即「多哈回合」被國際社會公認為「發展回合」,因它特別集中在發展中國家的發展需要上。香港的第六屆部長級會議實在帶來一個改變局勢,有利可持續發展的難得機會。會議的成果將會影響數以億計地球人的生活。全球在香港下了極大的注碼。

8.                             香港作為主辦單位,特區政府不單有責任確保是會議能順利進行,亦需要竭盡全力鼓勵及遊說世貿成員國令貿易促進可持續發展。若這一發展回合的協議,包括建立一個公平貿易機制及推廣負責任的貿易措施得以落實,將會是香港在世貿談判中所能取得的最大單一成就,更可望令數以億計現時不能受惠於自由貿易或甚至正受其煎熬的人得償一些益處。


9.                              商界方面,第六屆部長級會議亦正好提供了一個在可持續發展及企業社會責任前提下反思及重整商業貿易活動的黃金機會。香港的私人企業,尤其是那些在全球供應鏈舉足輕重的商賈,應擁護問責貿易的理念及加以實踐,以支援國際人權,維護勞工權益,尊重本地文他,推廣環境責任及可持續運用自然資源。香港商界領袖應藉此機會作出對問責貿易的承諾。


10.                         香港的公民社會在提升普羅市民關注世界貿易組織之功能上扮演一個很重要的角色,例如有關現行貿易機制的漏洞,發展回合的重要性及在是次部長級會議上所可能帶來的機遇。公民組織的定位除了是作為推動及監察會議的建設性力量,同樣重要的是在民間推廣可持續消費,因這是問責貿易及公平貿易制度的基石。


11.                          我們促請所有相關持份者,無論是政府、商界及非政府組織都抓緊第六屆部長級會議這個契機促使貿易成為推動可持續發展的主力。香港宣稱是亞洲國際城市,這正是難得的契機讓香港發揮應有表現及讓香港市民成為無愧的地球公民。