Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

WTO - Discussion Should Focus on the Future of Mankind
ONO Goro / Professor at Saitama University

September 30, 2003
We find ourselves today facing circumstances that require serious discussion on 'the future of mankind,' in light of the advance of globalization into every aspect of our lives and the emergence of global environmental issues. It is a shame that even international organs such as the WTO (World Trade Organization) nevertheless ignore this perspective, placing greater importance on adjusting national interests instead.

It is true that based on a static model, liberalization enhances the public welfare of all participating nations. And in that sense, liberalization is virtuous in principle when applied to developed countries that are economically mature.

However, based on a dynamic model, single-minded pursuit of liberalization works only to solidify the international division of labor due to comparative advantages, robbing less developed countries of their opportunity for growth. Today, when developed countries have already reached economic maturity and any hope for further global economic development rests with the growth of less developed countries, we should recognize certain exemption clauses regarding liberalization for such countries, while keeping future liberalization in sight. From a reverse angle, developed countries should abstain from pursuing short-term interests and strive instead to maximize liberalization among themselves from a more macro and long-term perspective that encompasses mankind as a whole, while at the same time demonstrating more tolerance towards exemptions intended for less developed countries.

In terms of the global environment - an issue upon which the future of mankind depends - self-sufficiency is preferable at least for the main staple of a nation. Of course, we cannot expect countries with populations below 10 million and limited land to become self-sufficient. But countries with populations in excess of 50 million should do their utmost to attain self-sufficiency. Meanwhile, a great many of the less developed countries have fallen victim to the 'poverty trap,' where poverty begets poverty, becoming a hotbed for terrorism or being forced to continue a lifestyle that is environmentally destructive. Rescuing these countries out of the 'poverty trap' would require developed countries to cooperate to a certain extent, by implementing measures such as 'priority import quotas' on agricultural products. But this should only be applied to less developed countries, and not to developed countries. In that vein, efforts on the part of the United States and the European Union to protect their export promotion measures for agricultural products amount to 'treason against mankind as a whole.'

On the other hand, I cannot support the stance of the Japanese government either, because while citing environmental concerns, its only real interest lies in protecting domestic farmers, though the result may appear the same. Japan should recall its own past experience as a less developed country and pay more heed to their standpoint on issues such as investment. And for the sake of environmental preservation, Japan should also seek more earnestly to revitalize its domestic agriculture instead of simply protecting it.

As for U.S. demands on Japan regarding the opening of its rice market, they are completely unjustified, the least of the reason being that the United States is no longer a less developed country. While U.S. demands on Japan are based on its argument that liberalization is in the interests of consumers, Japanese consumers are for the most part opposed to opening up the rice market, due to their mistrust of the United States stemming from issues such as residual pesticide and genetically-altered crops. Furthermore, the United States has in the past implemented export controls citing bad crops on soybean - the second-most important foodstuff in Japanese meals after rice. In terms of food security, the United States should be mindful of this historic fact, that it has lost the trust of the Japanese people as a result of its own actions.

The writer is Professor at Saitama University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

WTO 人類の将来という視点から論ぜよ
小野 五郎 / 埼玉大学教授

2003年 9月 30日






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > WTO - Discussion Should Focus on the Future of Mankind