Number of Downlaods: 13
Published Date: Oct 13, 1999
Shahrukh Rafi Khan
Abdul Matin Khan
Haider Ghani and Sajid Kazmi
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.