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“The case for an index of inclusiveness”
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“The case for an index of inclusiveness”

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Carole Nyemeck picTrade inequities are a hurdle to development, but Carole Nyemeck, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Cameroon, says the Commonwealth can take a lead in tracking information that will help balance the North-South disparity. 

In their book “Fair trade for all”, Joseph Stiglitz, the 2001 Nobel economics prize laureate, Andrew Charlton spoke of the asymmetric trade information between the North (developed countries) and the South (developing countries).  They argued that throughout the many development rounds and international agreements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), constraints have been imposed on developing countries while developed ones did not face similar hurdles.

They described terms-of-trade effects, subsidies on agriculture and textile products that impoverish African and Third-World farmers, and the comparative one-sided advantages for developed countries. They also claimed that “the more developed countries are in a better position to prevail” because “the costs to a developing country of bringing a claim against a developed country or to defend themselves against a claim from a developed country may be very high”.

Those arguments are not far from the ones developed respectively by William Easterly in “The elusive quest for growth, and Dambisa Moyo in “Dead aid”. Though these authors emphasised the whole sphere of economic development and not specifically trade, they still make the same call as Stiglitz and Charlton for a global development movement that would give developing countries the keys to unlock their full potentialities, rather than staying fastened in copy-paste models that do not really suit their socio-economic environments. How then can the North and South come to inclusive trade agreements conducive of development, when there is such asymmetric information geared towards one-sided benefits?

My answer is to create an index of inclusiveness of market access (IIMA) that would independently represent both the North and the South in their aspirations to attain mutually-beneficial trade gains. I advocate for the Commonwealth to pioneer the creation of such an index for three critical reasons:

  • English has become the official language of business, commerce and public affairs worldwide, and the Commonwealth has been established to preserve, promote and serve as catalyst for the development of a partnership agreement on the basis of the cultural heritage of English;
  • The 53 Commonwealth member countries are composed of developed countries, large and medium developing countries, and small island developing states (SIDS). Moreover, the majority of Commonwealth member countries are developing countries, which in function of their classifications (large, medium, small) have roughly the same sustainable development challenges (SDGs). The Commonwealth thus presents a unique model through which the trade interests of developing countries can be taken into consideration, in order to result in win-win market access gains to be shared between developed and developing countries;
  • The Commonwealth has an already established and credible voice in the international trade and development arena. Hence, if it pioneers the creation of an index that counters asymmetric information geared towards one-sided benefits, and engages in promoting the index during major WTO development rounds, that process can help end the many constraints limiting Africa and the developing world from thriving. Indeed, in changing times like the fourth industrial revolution described by the world economic forum 2016 that we are currently witnessing, developed countries can no longer leave unnecessary constraints in the hands of developing countries just to maintain economic supremacy. Now more than ever, the impoverished and losers of this global revolution will run the risk of being vulnerable to terrorist and extremist movements. The role of the Commonwealth in pioneering the creation of the IIMA and promoting it will be to sensitise developed countries on the need to allow developing countries to equally reap the benefits of trade and economic development;

The IIMA will concretely measure the yearly percentage of inclusion of developing countries in global trade, comparatively and correlatively to that of developed ones, in order to ensure transparency and equity in trade between North and South. The sub-indexes could be: comparative advantages in imports from the North and South, comparative advantages in exports from the North and South, elimination of subsidies and dumping in agricultural products, textiles and services from South to North, liberalization of industrial products from the North, terms-of-trade effects on development in the North and South, and preferential market agreements from North to South. IIMA groupings could range to cover the low, medium, and high classifications.

I really think building such an index can give developing countries a possibility to apply principles of market and trade in a manner that helps them yearly learn from their mistakes and grow stronger in the process of reaping the benefits of their trade activities, while not impeding developed countries’ possibility to equally gain. For, after all, a peaceful and inclusive world is one where everybody should get their true share of the lion!

photo credit: 5 Techniques To Get More Visitors and Traffic via photopin (license)

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About me: I am a policy blogger who launched an online journal called The Journal of Policy Innovations to diffuse policy briefs that identify market and/or government failures and propose innovative models to address them.

I feel deeply interested by the whole process of researching, devising, implementing, evaluating and analysing public policies and programmes that cater for society’s needs. To concretize that, I hope to join academia and to become a policy professional with an enterprising and practical mind.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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