Vulnerable Places, Vulnerable People
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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.
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Chapter 3: The Impacts of Trade Liberalization in Pingbian, China

He Daming, Liu Jiang and Bobby Cochran


He Daming and Liu Jiang, with Bobby Cochran When China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, it was already the leading producer and consumer of agricultural products in the world. Accession to the WTO followed as part of a successful long-term effort to modernize, liberalize and increase Chinese participation in the global marketplace. With its reserves of labor, natural resources and growing industrial and manufacturing capacity, China was poised to be a winner in global markets. Per capita incomes have already increased by 46 percent since the year 2000. The benefits of trade, however, accrue neither to everyone nor to all parts of China equally. People living in the isolated mountain regions of the western (inland) provinces, many of whom are ethnic minorities and who live by farming some of the country’s most environmentally fragile landscapes, were not expected to benefit from the liberalized trade regime. However, through its indirect impacts, the rapid growth of trade has brought new opportunities to even the most remote regions of China. This study looks at the case of Pingbian County, located in Yunnan Province along China’s southern border with Vietnam. In communities like Pingbian throughout China and the developing world, economies are shifting from subsistence farming to export-led, cash crop agriculture. Labor is shifting from farm to nonfarm work. And local governments and people are struggling to anticipate and capitalize on the potential they see in expanding markets. This study used household and village surveys, stakeholder interviews, decision-maker workshops and land-use...

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