Conference Explores Trade and Global Justice Issues

May 12, 2006
Dan Crane

Issues relating to international economics, trade and global justice dominated the discussions Friday during the Equality and New Global Order Conference held at the Kennedy School. The conference attracted dozens of scholars and students from throughout the country.

Matthias Risse, associate professor of public policy and conference organizer, spoke on “Fairness in Trade,” examining the potentially noxious effects of imbalanced trade regimes where smaller, less-powerful countries are exploited by larger, more-powerful ones.

“There has to be a sense that this goes on at the expense of the people whose rights are being violated,” Risse told an audience at the Wiener Auditorium. “I’m talking about the oppressed, whatever form of negative rights violation you are thinking of.”

Risse also voiced several key questions raised by international trade regimes. For instance, if workers in a small country trading with a larger country are harmed by the transaction, do they have a right to file a complaint for redress? Looking specifically at apartheid in South Africa, Risse asked what is the United States’ responsibility in situations in which our trade policies may be directly contributing to oppression in the other country? Should the U.S. continue to trade with the other country under such circumstances, he asked.

Concerns about imbalanced international aid policies were also raised during the discussion. Risse quoted economist Martin Wolf, who has noted that, “total assistance to rich country farmers was $311 billion in 2001, six times as much as all development assistance, indeed more than the GDP of Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2000, the EU provided $913 to each cow and $8 to each Sub-Saharan African…The priorities shown here are obscene.”

The Equality and New Global Order Conference was jointly sponsored by the Kennedy School’s Center for Ethics and the Project on Justice, Welfare, and Economics, with additional financial support provided by the Kennedy School of Government, the Provost's Office, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Ash Institute for Democratic Innovation, and the Center for International Development (CID).

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