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Why Mark Global Week of Action on Trade Justice

April 10, 2005 marked the beginning of the Global Week of Action on Trade Justice in many countries around the world. Events run until April 16 or 17.

13 April 2005 - CISA

"The week provides an opportunity to highlight some of the many reasons why the potential benefits of trade are not being harnessed in the poorest countries," according to TrĂ³caire, the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

"The free trade doctrine has been selectively applied by rich countries that have recourse to an arsenal of trade barriers and subsidies to protect their interests. The 'one size fits all' approach to trade liberalisation has worked in favour of richer countries that have much greater capacity to exploit new market opportunities," the agency said.

Africa, home to 12 per cent of the world's population, has more people living in poverty today than two decades ago.

The agency quoted United Nations statistics to show that "37 of the 50 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the world are African. The increase in the number of people living in poverty has coincided with a collapse in the continent's share of world trade, from around 6 per cent in 1980 to 2 per cent in 2002. Africa cannot set itself on a path to growth and poverty reduction, without increased trade."

Yet the barriers to increased trade are glaring, no more so than in agriculture, the continent's most crucial sector. Agriculture provides some 70 per cent of Africa's employment, compared to 5 per cent in the world's richest countries.

"While Africa opens up its markets the developed world uses subsidies of a billion dollars a day (16 times what they give in aid to Africa), which act as a market barrier and lead to price distortions in the international and local African markets," the charity said.

The world's Least Developed Countries should be allowed to choose their own trade and investment policies. Countries like Africa should have the right to defend their local producers against dumping of subsidised goods in their marketplaces. African countries are currently not permitted to raise tariffs when an influx of subsidised goods threatens the livelihoods of their producers.

TrĂ³caire is currently funding research in Tanzania and Zambia, two of Ireland's priority aid countries, to document cases of subsidised import surges, their effect on local producers and the type of policy instruments that poor countries should be allowed (through international trade rules) to invoke to protect their agricultural producers.

It has supported long-term development work throughout the continent of Africa since its creation in 1973, and works with local partners in the different countries. It has offices in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Rwanda, and projects in these and other countries.

Details on the week's campaign can be found at, while information on national activities across Africa is available at the official website

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