EU protectionism effectively fosters poverty in developing countries by denying them trade with the West and the opportunity to develop their industries and agricultural sectors. As a sop to liberal sensibilities, developed countries, like the UK, seek to compensate for this inequity by dispensing generous amounts of foreign aid. If and when this money actually gets to the people that need it, it stunts economic development and represents nothing more than cultural colonialism.
The vast sums of international aid showered upon relatively impoverished countries are often siphoned away to sustain and consolidate the regimes of unscrupulous despots and their cronies. Such collusion and connivance with corrupt governments in Africa and the ‘Third World’ effectively denies populations the opportunity to throw off the shackles of poverty.
Agreements negotiated at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have ensured that traditional trade protection measures such as tariffs and quotas are on the way out. But, as fast as they disappear, new technical regulations are replacing them, allowing countries to bar products from entering their markets if they fall short of certain standards. In order to comply with exacting EU standards, for example, Kenyan farmers would have to spend ten times more than they currently do. Similarly, Ugandan coffee producers would need to spend 200 per cent more to produce coffee that meets the required EU standard. According to a report of the Commission for Africa, African exports would increase by $400m per year if the EU would apply international standards on pesticides on bananas, rather than its own more restrictive ones. In this way, EU producers are subtly and deviously protected from low-cost imports from developing countries. As Trevor Manuel, the former South African finance minister, once pointed out: “The problem is not that international trade is inherently opposed to the needs and interests of the poor, but that the rules that govern it are rigged in favour of the rich.”
And yet here we are, devoting no less than £12bn this year to foreign aid (mandated at 0.7 per cent of national output) at a time when most government departments have been instructed to cut budgets by 40 per cent. It is a policy that is insulting, patronising and counter-productive. And, far from alleviating the economic plight of developing countries, it only serves to redistribute a small amount of the money misappropriated under the divisive and dishonest jurisdiction of EU trading laws.