- Wednesday | 13 Oct, 1999
- Shahrukh Rafi Khan, Mahmood A. Khwaja, Abdul Matin Khan, Sajid Kazmi
Shahrukh Rafi Khan Mahmood A. Khwaja Abdul Matin Khan Haider Ghani and Sajid Kazmi Introduction
Pakistan, like many other poor Southern countries, is currently in a double bind. On the on hand, it finds that the rich countries are being very slow in implementing the Uruguay Round trade agreements in liberalizing imports, particularly in sectors such as textiles and agriculture which are of interest to Pakistan. On the other hand, the world trade scenario is changing, independently of the sway of the WTO, as governments and businesses respond to consumer preferences for ecologically friendly production and consumption and set and impose environmental standards. Thus, even the goods currently being exported are increasingly being expected to meet stringent environmental standards. Poor countries now feel that while it suited the North, they preached consumer sovereignty and confronted them with the “let the market decide” rhetoric. Now that several countries in the South have acquired comparative advantage in manufactured goods, the North is hiding behind environmental barriers to protect their industries, and forgetting the market ideology they preached. The issue is not quite as simple as it seems. If standards are responding to consumer preferences in the North, than the market ideology still prevails, and Northern consumers in effect chose to consume goods that are produced by cleaner methods rather than those which are cheaper. However, Southern countries may need to be wary of protectionist use of environmental standards by rich country governments rather than those dictated by the market. In such cases, they should lobby via the WTO to ensure that the old time market rule of consumers’ sovereignty prevails, particularly now that this benefits the poor countries.