Control over global items

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2. How can we gain more control over global items like the internet or international markets? Are organizations like the WTO or the UN suitable for this task?

Answer by Jana Hybášková:

In representative democracy “we” is the state, represented by our government and our parliament. Our country is represented by the Minister of Trade at the WTO and by the UN Ambassador. The ambassador is responsible to our government, or head of state. Our responsibility in the outside world is represented by the president, the prime minister, and the foreign minister. To make them represent us in the way we wish to control the world, we need to have political influence, we should vote and be elected and participate in political life.

We Europeans were and will be represented in the WTO by the commissioner for international trade. The way the Commissioner will handle WTO negotiations should be more transparent than it has been so far. So far, the EU handling of the WTO is the result of interplay between member states, interests, political representation, political parties, different political views - for instance towards US - and towards the Third World. Sometimes it was subjugated to ideology.

I recall the ideological tragedy of the forced liberalization of the sugar market. Agriculture should be free. Free meant to open the sugar market to world price competition. How can we compare the price of sugar beet to the price of sugar cane? How can we compare the price in Poland to costs in Costa Rica? How can we compare the Costa Rican price to the Brazilian price? Brazil cuts down its rain forests, exploits the land without any accounting for expenditures, employs the local population outside any ILO rules, and does not pay rent for land. Brazil achieves incomparable costs with which farmers in Poland, Czech Republic, Jamaica or Costa Rica can not compete. We sent farmers in Costa Rica, Jamaica and other sugar cane producing countries to a subsistence level. The EU sugar industry is closed. The only benefit comes to those illegally cutting down Brazilian forests.

While formulating, pursuing, and advocating policy in the WTO, there should be much more internal EU debate, the process should be more open to the public, interested organizations should be engaged, and there should be civil pressure inside the EU. It is up to us, engaged citizens, to be better represented, heard more in the definition of a sustainable EU position in the WTO.

The UN influence on security issues is decreasing. It is deeply affected by the lack of any political consensus, by the veto of China and Russia and many of their underdeveloped partners. Worthy of interest are UN agencies: WHO, UNDP, ILO, WFO, UNICEF. UN agencies are much more effective than the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) or the GA (General Assembly). Agencies can help, aid, warn, but they are not direct stakeholders. If ILO standards are to be compulsory, we simply will not be able to buy either Brazilian sugar or Nigerian coffee, nor many items from China. And we do. And we accede the recommended standards of the WHO.

The EU is fine with its institution of consumer protection. It should be applied to imported goods much more strictly than it is. This will help UN ILO standards to come into effect.