There are umpteen protestors now in Hong Kong claiming that the WTO is unfair. Mostly these are South Korean farmers who can afford to fly to Hong Kong protesting against the looming opening up of the South Korean rice market to cheaper foreign rice from the likes of Thailand (which is far poorer and a far more efficient rice producer). South Korea is a very small country with a high population, so in all likelihood there will be less rice producers in South Korea over the longer term, as the pressure for land shifts the country further from agriculture to manufacturing and services (which it is very good at).
The US is willing to abandon agricultural export subsidies if the EU does so, and developing countries also abandon protectionist policies for agriculture.
The EU is willing to provide special access to products from least developed countries, thwarted the MFN principle which states that all WTO member states should be treated equally (though the EU itself is a great example of thwarting MFN!).
Both the EU and the US want liberalisation in manufactured goods and services in developing countries. Developing countries want an end to export subsidies and protectionism for agriculture and textiles in developed countries.
Most of them are right! However, no deal can be struck without agreement between member states - which is more fair than any United Nations organisation (the WTO is not part of the UN) which works on majority most of the time (and since the majority of countries are corrupt and often despotic, the result is clear).
New Zealand fortunately can step to one side given that it has almost totally liberalised trade (tariffs remain thanks to Jim Anderton’s deal with Labour when the Clark government was first formed), and can argue philosophically for free trade in agriculture, goods and services.
Even this French dairy farmer admits that New Zealand dairy farmers can produce milk at half the cost French ones can. If the Greens were in France, they would argue that New Zealand (foreign) milk cannot be allowed to undercut local producers- in short, the Greens would argue to render New Zealand a small country backwater unable to earn foreign exchange from agricultural products, and unable to afford the capital goods produced in other countries.
Interesting the steel worker in this BBC interview in Brazil understands things a lot better than his US counterpart – arguing that US car manufacturers would be more competitive if the cost of steel were lower for them (which means importing steel from more efficient producers), and that Brazilian steel mills are more up to date and competitive than US ones. Remember Bush agreed to reintroduce tariffs to protect the US steel industry.
Free trade is a no brainer. Professor Jagdish Bhagwati is a world renowned author on free trade. His website contains copies of many papers and articles he has written on trade and related issues. His latest book is In Defence of Globalization which I am currently reading.
If you think that the government should limit imports from other countries or tax them, then explain why you need to be forced to buy local, or penalised if you don’t. Also explain why the arbitrary national boundaries that exist are so precious to anti-free traders? Why not impose tariffs on products moved from the South to the North Island (that damned Mainland cheese!) and vice versa, why not impose tariffs on products coming from Northland or the Bay of Plenty into Auckland, or vice versa? Silly? Well imagine the USA did this, with 50 states – looks a bit like Europe then. Consider Africa, which is covered in protectionist states, most of which have GDP levels a fraction of New Zealand, with many times the population – see what a lack of free trade does for them.
If you are still not convinced, what if we extended the protectionist principle to its logical conclusion. You are now heavily taxed if you buy anything from outside your own home, but not on anything you grow or make yourself – see how wealthy you are now? Free trade is what happens everyday between you and your community, town and country – if it works within your country, where councils have differing levels of taxes and laws, it will work between countries.