By Alan Beattie
Any veterans of the ferocious pro and anti debates on globalisation might be forgiven a slight sense of déjà vu when they read the trade section of the United Nations' human development report, writes Alan Beattie.
Much of the argument, and even some of the language, replicates the campaigns that non-governmental organisations have undertaken in recent years - perhaps not surprising given that the report's lead author is Kevin Watkins, formerly head of research at Oxfam.
The United Nations report places the blame for the failure of trade and globalisation to benefit everyone squarely on the rich nations for imposing tariffs against poor countries and subsidising their own farmers.
"The rules of the game are at the heart of the problem," it says. "Hypocrisy and double standards are not strong foundations for a rules-based multilateral system geared towards human development."
This echoes an Oxfam study on rich countries' "rigged rules and double standards" in 2003, co-written by Mr Watkins.
The United Nations report also contains a section on the "crisis in coffee" similar to an Oxfam campaign in 2002, and suggests that the supply of
some commodities be managed globally to keep up prices.
These familiar arguments are regarded as one-sided by some development and trade economists who, while no fans themselves of rich country trade protection and farm subsidies, point at the trade barriers maintained by poor countries against each other, and the poorest countries' failure to
take advantage of the considerable market access they have.
Though the report does admit that developing countries also maintain high tariff barriers against each other, it says that they should be given special exemptions from cutting tariffs in global trade deals.
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