Vulnerable Places, Vulnerable People

Vulnerable Places, Vulnerable People

Trade Liberalization, Rural Poverty and the Environment

Edited by Jonathan A. Cook, Owen Cylke, Donald F. Larson, John D. Nash and Pamela Stedman-Edwards

While some argue that trade liberalization has raised incomes and led to environmental protection in developing countries, others claim that it generates neither poverty reduction nor sustainability. The detailed case studies in this book demonstrate that neither interpretation is universally correct, given how much depends on specific policies and institutions that determine ‘on-the-ground’ outcomes. Drawing on research from six countries around the developing world, the book also presents the unique perspectives of researchers at both the world’s largest development organization (The World Bank) and the world’s largest conservation organization (World Wildlife Fund) on the debate over trade liberalization and its effects on poverty and the environment.

Chapter 1: Trade Liberalization, Rural Poverty and the Environment

Jonathan A. Cook, Owen Cylke, Donald F. Larson, Pamela Stedman-Edwards and John D. Nash

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics, environmental geography


Jonathan A. Cook, Owen Cylke, Donald F. Larson, John D. Nash and Pamela Stedman-Edwards As trade negotiators from around the world gathered for World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Seattle in November 1999, a heated debate over the impacts of trade and trade liberalization reached its peak. A diverse group of protesters from countries north and south temporarily halted the controversial negotiations after years of slow but steady progress toward a global expansion of trade liberalization. While international development institutions and the governments of many developed and developing countries attempted to push forward with trade liberalization, protesters blamed trade for many of the problems facing the poor in developing countries and for the increasing degradation of the natural environment. At the same time, a deep schism emerged between developed and developing countries over agricultural trade and the protection of intellectual property rights (Bhagwati, 2005). The rapid growth of international trade, supported by the liberalization of trade policies and by the efforts of many developing countries to expand exports, has dramatically transformed the international arena in recent decades. Trade liberalization and export promotion together have formed a policy keystone for many developing countries and for international development institutions. But the rapid changes brought in some places by opening markets, and the failed promise of change in others, have generated a highly polemical debate around the role of trade. Trade has been lionized – credited with fostering not only economic growth, but also poverty alleviation, environmental improvements and even democratization. And trade has...

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