Opinion: Gin-swigging Geldof joins chorus of calls for free trade

A BBC chin-wag with Bob Geldof was a predictable part of the G20 coverage, and culminated perhaps equally predictably, with ‘Sir Bob’ confessing that he’d been knocking back gin. He then peevishly crushed a plastic up and chucked it on the ground.

Sounds like my kind of evening.

Nonetheless, some of his sentiments, if not so predictable, were especially pertinent. On the importance of trade, he said:

Look, probably the great unsung triumph so far of the twenty-first century was the lifting of 400 million Chinese people out of extreme poverty—through trade.”

Furthermore, he urged governments to stop erecting barriers to trade:

A retreat to protectionism is a retreat to militarism, national bankruptcy and ruin and ruined countries strike out.”

“We must avoid that,” he warned.

Sadly many government leaders are not listening. An article in USA Today lists a depressing sample of protectionist measures imposed by governments across the world since September 2008.

The European Union, for example, re-introduced customs duties on imports of certain cereals; Russia increased tariffs on imported cars, buses, and some dairy products; India imposed a 20% duty on imported soybean oils.

Earlier this week Reuters reported on the launch of the Freedom to Trade campaign. African speakers June Arunga and Moeletski Mbeki narrated the harm trade barriers inflict on the poor in their countries.

The campaign is not a G20-day publicity stunt, and needs constant support. You can help simply by:

Signing the petition HERE.

Joining the Facebook group HERE.

Following on Twitter HERE.

The website went live this week and can be found at freedomtotrade.org HERE.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I should hope we were all firm supporters of free trade on this website.

    I support the idea of “fair trade”, though not necessarily the whole business that has a Fairtrade logo stamped on it.* But there is no doubt that we can best support these countries’ economies by buying their products, & by passing on such expertise as westerners have.

    It is education & infrastructure which we should be helping by our charitable donations but even more so by good old fashioned business & profit-making along with schaith like microloans & that.

    It is my view that we should agree on environmental regulations & quality standards & the likes. No, they should not be onerous as some doubtless want them to be. Because the whole thing can & should be aimed squarely at the human.

    While some who post here may well support such things as immigration reduction, we are none of us nationalists & we are looking to better the lot of our fellow man.

    *One of the first lessons you learn from having an admin-related job is that it doesn’t matter how good an idea sounds, the implementation has to be got right!

  • You have got to hammer the idiocies of the CAP/CFP & such like.

    A good revenue source for developing countries is actually immigrants to western countries who send their earnings home. This, & the purchasing power we ourselves choose to deploy, is the main driver for progress.

  • Bob Geldof possibly isn’t a person whose advice on economics and free and equitable trade should be taken given he’s also doing very nicely from his non-domicile status and offshore tax-haven arrangements:



  • Tom Papworth 6th Apr '09 - 1:02pm

    While it is true that developing countries will benefit if developed nations buy goods from them, the real gain to be made from trade is through importing. Consequently, the best thing that developing countries can do (contra the Fair Trade movement) is remove their own trade barriers. This would reduce the cost of living for their own people and enable their industries to import cheaper, higher quality materials.

    From the perspective of the developed world, we should be making the case for free trade as benefiting our own citizens, rather than trying to sell it on the grounds that it benefits the Third World. While the latter is undoubtedly true, it overlooks the fact that free trade benefits everybody and that it is not a sacrifice on our part to allow poorer nations to export their goods to us.

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