International Organizations, for World Peace? or for Strong Countries?
International Organizations, for World Peace? or for Strong Countries?
  • Jang Minjae
  • 승인 2010.02.17 14:34
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Suicide parade. Can you guess what it means? Five thousand people in Bidar, India chose suicide  between 2001 and 2005 after the harsh life pressured by liabilities, and a Korean TV show program introduced the phenomenon as a ‘suicide parade’. The fierce power which made this parade was one of the international organizations called the WTO, which is familiar to us due to a series of incidents that happened few years ago. People in Bidar had been started to be encumbered with great debt since the Indian government joined the WTO in the early 1990s and opened the agricultural market to the world. Since imported cotton got into the domestic market, the price of cotton had fallen down, and when farmers sowed the modified seeds from U.S.A, all sorts of epidemics had begun to spread. In case you are unacquainted with the happening in India, at least you would have noticed from the tumults of fear and suffering of farmers in this country in the recent years. Do international organizations, including the WTO, really exist for world peace and for the fair development of all nations? Or do they play a role to give benefits to strong countries?  Let’s take a brief look at the WTO, UN, and IMF.

The way of trade that WTO, the organization which deals with the rules of trade between nations at a global or near-global level, according to its self-definition, suggests it is very unfair to some countries. The game goes like this: the rule is always same even in the case where the two players are an adult and a child. From the point of the view of the less advanced countries, it is almost impossible to foster the new industry without the regulations to tariffs, subsidies, the violation advanced countries’ intellectual property rights and foreign investment. Actually most advanced countries did need the same regulations in the early days of industrial development without exception.

Take a tariff for instance. All advanced nations except Netherlands and Switzerland used protective tariffs in the early days of industrial development. Though Britain and U.S.A now declare  free trade most enthusiastically,  they were not an exception. Especially for America, the very first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton made the nation maintain a 40~50% of custom tariff from the 1830s to World War II, which was the opening of the protective trade. That was the highest custom tariff ever.

So is the case of the foreign investment. Advanced countries strictly imposed regulations to other countries when they were capital-importing countries. America sternly regulated foreign investment in the banking business, logging businesses, mining industry, shipping industry, and Britain, France, and Germany also regulated foreign investment since their position has been changed from capital-exporting countries to capital-importing countries after World War II.

Like that mentioned above, the WTO takes its stance on the side of the advanced nations. Unlike the WTO, it was accepted under the GATT system, the former WTO, to put some exceptions to the underdeveloped countries in the tariff and subsidy part, and the system did not interfere with the intellectual property rights and foreign investments. However, it has been changed. Now the developed countries insist through the WTO that underdeveloped or developing countries should do negotiations with themselves, taking some cards like the opening of agricultural market and the removal of agriculture subsidies instead giving up the important tools for economic development such as tariffs and subsidies. However, it is paradoxically showing that developed countries are trying to block the development of less-advanced countries for their own benefits since the evident purpose of negotiation is not to give the things like tariffs and subsidies to less-advanced countries.

It has become tough for less-advanced nations to take their position in the UN also. Now the UN is confronted with the financial problem because the U.S.A did not pay its own share of expenses. In 2008, unpaid allotted charges were $8.4 billion, 90% of unpaid charges. America insists that they cannot pay their shares because their voice in UN is so small although they take the most part of the charge. And also they insist that instead of paying more charges, give them more rights to vote. The more rights in vote mean the more influence of the U.S.A in the UN policy decision. However, if the right to vote is decided by the amount of paid money, the UN would become the place where only the rich countries raise their voice.

The IMF is also not on the side of poor nations. The IMF did a lot of good things, but still the fact that the IMF forced poor countries to accept excessive economic reform in exchange for a relief loan offered by the IMF is also true. As the economic reform is favorable for advanced countries, conglomerates and financial world, it is estimated to be the ‘neo-liberal’ one. Plus, as the members’ right to vote is decided by the amount of investment, the big nations such as the U.S.A have more power in the organization, and that is not democratic.

As mentioned above, the path main international organizations are going seems little far away from their own aim of foundation. We cannot help doubting if they are doing their job, for example the UN for world peace, the WTO for fair global trade, the IMF for guarantee of international currency liquidity, or becoming some other measures for rich nations to raise their voices. The foundation of all international organizations was not easy, and even now taxes from all over the world are being used by them. The power of international organizations should be used in the right place in right direction.

Jang Minjae
Department of Chemical Engineering