Russia’s Repeat Failures
Moscow’s New Strategy in Ukraine Is Just as Bad as the Old One
ISSUES BEFORE THE U.N. CONFERENCE
IN the spring of 1964 representatives of more than 110 countries will gather in Geneva for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. To say that the less developed countries have high hopes for this event would be the understatement of the year. Again and again at meetings of the Preparatory Committee for the Conference the refrain was that the Conference would be the single most important international event for the less developed countries since the founding of the United Nations. These countries look to the Conference to lay the foundations for a "new international division of labor"; to formulate a new and "dynamic international trade policy"; and, as one representative to the Preparatory Committee recently wrote, to advance the goal of "economic emancipation" from the neo-colonialism implicit in present trade relations between rich and poor countries.
It is no secret that the United States was originally cool to the idea of a world trade conference under the aegis of the United Nations. For a number of years in the late fifties, the Soviet bloc had been pressing for such a conference primarily for the purpose of attacking Western, and particularly American, strategic trade controls as well as the U. S. policy of denying most-favored-nation treatment to the Soviet bloc. The American position was that these policies were simply a reflection of certain underlying realities of a political and security nature. Under the circumstances, a world trade conference such as that proposed by the Soviet bloc would merely provide a forum from which to attack Western "economic aggression" and appeal to the less developed countries for moral support for the "normalization" of East-West trade relations. In short, it would become an empty propaganda show.
At the General Assembly in 1961, however, the idea of a world trade conference took on a different cast. It was seized upon by the developing countries with great enthusiasm as a means of directing attention to the problems of their trade with the rest of the world. These problems were becoming steadily more acute and threatened to vitiate such advances as would otherwise be possible through their own efforts and through external financial assistance. Given this shift in emphasis and the overwhelming sentiment of the developing countries in favor of a world trade conference, the United States decided to support the project, to participate actively in influencing its scope and character, and to join with others in seeking constructive solutions to what is now generally recognized to be a problem of great urgency.
The problem can be simply stated. If the developing countries are to maintain a satisfactory rate of growth, their import needs will expand rapidly. A large and growing part of their imports is now made up of machinery and equipment required to support national development efforts. Since few developing countries possess an excess of foreign exchange reserves, these needs can be financed in only two ways-through capital imports and through the proceeds of their exports. At the present time, capital imports through aid and private foreign investment amount to only about $8 billion per year, whereas total export earnings amount to about $27 billion. Clearly, therefore, exports are the principal determinant of the import capacity of the developing countries.
Beyond this importance, exports have a further essential role to play in the development process. If industrialization is to take place, the less developed countries must find an escape from the constrictions of their own limited national markets. In many cases, it is only through exports, both to other developing countries and to advanced countries, that adequate markets can be found to support their industrialization.
As the developing countries examine recent trends and future prospects, they see that the growth in the volume of their present exports-largely primary materials-has been extremely sluggish compared to the increase in their import needs. If present policies are continued, moreover, future trends are unlikely to show an appreciable improvement. The task of the Conference, therefore, will be to consider what new policies should be adopted, nationally and internationally, to accelerate the growth of exports of developing countries by strengthening markets for their traditional products and by stimulating the development of new export products and new markets.
It is a curious paradox that the enthusiasm generated among the developing countries for the U.N. Trade Conference is accompanied by a sense of detachment bordering on lack of interest regarding the "Kennedy round" of tariff negotiations scheduled to begin soon thereafter. Yet, the latter hold out the possibility of the most far-reaching dismantling of trade protection ever undertaken on a world-wide basis. Moreover, at the last Ministerial Meeting of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) under whose aegis the Kennedy round will take place, the industrial countries decided to make a special effort to include within the scope of the negotiations products of special interest to the less developed countries, without seeking reciprocal concessions.
Despite the concrete benefits likely to flow to the developing countries from the Kennedy round, they look upon it as merely more of the same kind of exercise that GATT has undertaken many times before. It is not the kind of break with the past that they seek from the U.N. Conference.
In order to understand the drive and fervor of the less developed countries for this Conference, it is not enough to examine their trade problems in terms of statistical trends. The problems are serious; there should be no question about that. But beyond any objective level of analysis, the leadership group in these countries is fired with a sense of injustice, a feeling that the international trading system is stacked in favor of the advanced countries, and that the Kennedy round is an operation undertaken within the basic framework of that system. What they want is to change the system, and the U.N. Trade Conference is viewed as a vital step in that direction.
The ideological sub-structure of the Conference is not spelled out neatly in any of the voluminous documentation produced by the able Secretariat of the Conference. But elements of it are found in a vast literature produced over the last decade on various aspects of the relationship between international trade and economic development.
This doctrine views the present rules, practices and institutions in international trade as essentially a reflection of classical trade theory- namely, that unhampered international trade tends to bring about an optimum allocation of resources within countries and therefore to maximize income. By pursuing liberal and non-discriminatory trade policies, each country will be induced to concentrate on producing those goods in which its comparative advantage is greatest. But in the view of many intellectual leaders of the developing countries, by treating all countries alike, these liberal policies tend to perpetuate existing patterns of production in the world and therefore the existing inequities. In this line of thinking, the trouble with the classical theory is its static view of the world; it takes as given the existing distribution of resources among countries. Yet the whole point of the newly awakened drive for development is to alter the existing pattern and therefore to change the structure of comparative advantage. This means changed technologies, new industries and altered consumption patterns in the less developed countries.
To be sure, a respectable place is found within the established system for the protection of infant industry, but as a mere exception to the basically static body of doctrine. And while in the classical system the structure of comparative advantage and therefore of trade can change in response to dynamic forces such as new investment, these changes are viewed as passive responses to outside factors. What is needed is an overhaul of the international trading system so as not merely to permit an accommodation to autonomous forces of change but so that trade principles and policies will themselves operate to induce economic development.
Concentration on primary products inevitably means unstable foreign exchange earnings for the less developed countries in the short run and a slow growth in the volume of demand for their exports over the longer run. These trends reflect deep-seated forces that the less developed countries feel powerless to cope with on their own. In particular, they are unable because of the very fact of their underdevelopment to shift resources readily from products that are in redundant supply to others with more favorable prospects.
The recent deterioration in their terms of trade is viewed as a graphic demonstration of this helplessness. As the less developed countries increase their efficiency in producing primary products, the gains are passed on to the advanced countries in the form of lower prices. But the gains in productivity in manufacturing in the advanced countries remain, to a large extent, within those countries in the form of higher wages and other incomes and are not reflected in lower prices. In short, the less developed countries get less for what they produce and often pay more for what they buy.
Under the direction of Dr. Raul Prebisch, Secretary General of the Conference,[i] the 32-nation Preparatory Committee has drawn up a comprehensive agenda. Although it "covers the waterfront," the main attention will be given to four subjects: (1) the slow growth in the volume of exports of primary products from developing countries and the deterioration in their terms of trade; (2) their need to expand exports of manufactured products; (3) the prospects for expanding trade between the developing countries and the centrally planned economies of the Soviet bloc; and (4) the existing institutional arrangements for international trade, particularly GATT, and the possible need for new organizational machinery.
For some years, the success of less developed countries in expanding their exports will depend on their ability to increase their earnings from sales of primary commodities. However much their ultimate salvation may lie in a shift toward exports of manufactures, it will be some time before substantial gains can be achieved in this way. Food, fuel and raw materials constitute 86 percent of the total exports of developing countries. It is natural therefore that the U.N. Trade Conference will in the first instance place major emphasis on policies to expand earnings from those products.
It is generally recognized that little can be done about the lag in the growth of traditional exports from developing countries in so far as it results from the march of progress in the advanced countries. As people become richer they spend less of their increases in income on food. And as technology advances, a whole range of man-made substitutes such as plastics, nylon and synthetic rubber come on the market in competition with natural products. But if the developing countries must resign themselves to accepting the consequences of these developments, they are totally unreconciled to accepting obstacles to their traditional exports which are consciously created by industrial countries.
Tariffs, quotas, revenue duties and internal taxes on tropical products, preferences which discriminate against certain developing countries-these and other impediments to access to the markets of advanced countries will come under heavy attack at the U.N. Conference. A "program of action" to get rid of them has been under way in GATT since 1961, but concrete results thus far are not impressive. In fact, a recent effort to adopt a specific timetable for eliminating obstacles led to a stormy GATT session which brought to light a basic difference in approach to the entire problem of the commodity trade of developing countries.
On one hand, all industrialized countries other than those of the European Common Market accepted the obligation to reduce or eliminate barriers to the exports of less developed countries by stated dates, subject to certain qualifications. On the other hand, the members of the Common Market declined to accept the program of action and merely endorsed its general objectives. Their position was that the mere elimination of barriers would accomplish little and that "more positive measures" were required. They therefore urged international action to "organize" world commodity trade to insure increasing exports for the developing countries at more favorable prices. Although this idea was put forward in the name of the European Community, its paternity is unquestionably French. French thinking has been inspired by the fact that almost all advanced countries have resorted to various control and support measures for domestic primary producers, particularly in agriculture, and also by France's experience in trading with the franc zone.
The basic idea is that commodity agreements would be entered into for those products which developing countries have difficulty in disposing of at favorable prices under open market conditions. But the agreements would go beyond the orthodox purpose of smoothing out short-term fluctuations in commodity markets without disturbing the long-term trend. Indeed, the purely stabilizing function would be secondary to the main purpose of improving the terms of trade by raising commodity prices above what normal market forces would yield. In other words, market organization would be a supplement to the conventional way of providing aid to the less developed countries. Resources would be transferred through higher prices paid by consumers in the advanced countries rather than through grants or loans by governments.
Essential elements in the scheme would include: establishment of target prices for each product at a level which, in view of world demand, would give higher total receipts to producing countries; assignment of export quotas to producing countries at a level such that the total would clear the market at the target price; coöperation of importing countries either through establishing import quotas or, as a minimum, by discriminating against exporters not party to the agreement; siphoning off part of the export proceeds which otherwise would accrue to individual producers and channeling them into a fund to finance the shifting of resources out of redundant commodities into new products and new industries.
Apart from the enormous practical difficulties of negotiating and administering agreements of this sort, the French concept raises some more basic questions. How far could one go, for example, in increasing the price of natural rubber or natural fibres without reducing the incomes of producers by stimulating a further shift in consumption toward synthetic products? What about commodities such as cotton, tobacco and nonferrous metals which are exported both by advanced countries and by less developed countries? It is doubtful if more than a handful of commodities-mainly tropical-are of substantial importance in international trade and lend themselves to the market-organization approach. And of these, coffee is already subject to control and a recent attempt at a cocoa agreement met with failure.
How efficient are commodity agreements as a way of transferring additional resources from rich to poor countries? Automatic transfers mean that there can be no assurance that the resources go to the right countries-that is, those most capable of making effective use of the funds for development purposes. Moreover, any leverage which a donor can exert in inducing developing countries to make internal reforms would be absent from aid transferred through commodity control arrangements. And within the donor countries, the burden of aid would not be distributed according to individual capacities to pay but according to consumption. Apart from all other considerations, proliferation of commodity agreements would extend into the international sphere the rigidities of domestic agricultural support schemes.
Another way of coping with the long-term price problems of developing countries has therefore been proposed. It would leave the market alone but would compensate the developing countries directly for losses from adverse movements in the terms of trade. A compensatory arrangement would eliminate the need for export quotas, production controls or freezing of trade patterns. Even if commodity agreements could be negotiated in a few key products, compensatory arrangements would provide a solution benefiting countries with exports not susceptible to specific market-control arrangements.
The charge is often made that the rich countries take back through trade much of what they give through aid. A system of compensating for losses from changes in the terms of trade would provide a direct answer to this complaint. The U.S. Ambassador to Brazil has pointed out, however, that Brazil's terms of trade, while declining in the 1950s, were higher during that period than in any decade since the 1920s. Most developing countries nevertheless think of life as having begun around 1950 because it was then that economic development became a major conscious objective. Anything that went on before is irrelevant today. The early 1950s is rejected as a base for calculating changes in the terms of trade because of the inflationary effects of the Korean War; but the developing countries suffer also from calculations based on more recent years. On the basis of crude indexes, it has been estimated that if the price relationships of 1958 had applied to the actual trade of the developing countries in 1961, the latter would have received $1 billion more for their exports and would have paid $200 million less for their imports.
Prices decline when producers place on the world market more than consumers want at existing prices. Does it make sense to compensate the producers for their failure to shift resources to other fields? Proponents of the compensation approach reply that the arrangement need not be symmetrical. Contributions to the fund by advanced countries could be based on their gains from the terms of trade, whereas payments to less developed countries could be made contingent on their need and on their adopting special measures to rectify uneconomic allocations of resources and to diversify production.
Put in these terms, a compensatory arrangement becomes another direct mechanism for providing economic assistance. On the receiving side, the usual aid criteria would be applied, i.e. need and the ability to make effective use of the funds. But on the side of the donors, there would be a new standard for determining the level of aid and the share of each in providing it. It seems reasonable for industrial countries benefiting from favorable movements in the terms of trade to provide supplementary aid in some relationship to these benefits.
In short, it should be possible to go a long way toward meeting the problem of secular weakness in primary materials markets by a combination of three measures: the elimination of import restrictions in advanced countries; a highly selective resort to commodity agreements; and the provision of supplementary aid funds to support diversification.
The developing countries hope that exports of manufactures will provide the long-run remedy for stagnation in their international trade and a dynamic impulse to their internal industrial development. But in 1961, of their $27 billion of exports, only $4 billion were manufactured products, and a substantial portion of the latter were semi-processed materials.
Policies to increase their exports of manufactured products must be directed in the first instance to overcoming domestic obstacles. The widespread adoption of import substitution is a case in point. Protection to support the substitution of domestic production for imports may be perfectly appropriate as a means both of conserving foreign exchange and of getting industries started in the early stages of industrialization. But if carried too far, it can become a major impediment to economic growth; for it fosters high-cost industries geared to the internal market and completely incapable of competing in foreign markets. In Latin America, for example, tariff rates of over 500 percent are not uncommon. Internal restrictive practices are also widespread. Thus manufacturers are often effectively insulated from any real competition, foreign or domestic.
Perhaps the surest way for countries to price themselves out of world markets is through inflation and overvalued exchange rates. Why should producers in developing countries exert themselves to sell in unsheltered markets abroad at low prices when they can sell at high prices at home?
It is not enough to eliminate factors that deter the export of manufactures. Developing countries must undertake affirmative programs to promote such exports. Ignorance of foreign markets, lack of contact with foreign importing firms, lack of familiarity with the changing tastes of foreign consumers, inadequate grading and packaging-these are some of the difficulties facing potential exporters. To overcome them is a formidable task requiring government assistance and whatever financial and technical help may be obtained from the advanced countries and from international organizations.
A U.N. document reports, however, that few requests for technical assistance in sales and marketing have been received. "Moreover, advice, when sought, has been in relation to marketing of primary products rather than manufactures, in spite of the fact that deficient management of sales and marketing of industrial goods is a great obstacle to the development of industry." Here is one area where the current stress on the need to coördinate trade and aid policies would have specific applicability. Here, also, the foreign investor can make a major contribution by providing not only capital, technology and management, but unique skills and facilities in marketing and distribution.
Other types of assistance can also be given to make selling abroad more attractive, such as various forms of export subsidies and tax exemptions related to exports. Export subsidies are frowned upon by GATT, however, and they lay the beneficiary open to countervailing duties in the export market. GATT and the U.N. Trade Conference should therefore consider making export subsidies and tax exemptions legitimate as temporary measures. Possibly the same objective could be achieved by less objectionable devices, such as government guarantees against losses incurred in the course of efforts to develop foreign markets.
At the U.N. Conference the major drive for expanding exports of manufactures will be toward improving access to foreign markets. At this stage it is impossible to state how much tariffs in advanced countries impede such exports. Although rates on many products exported by developing countries are as high as 20 percent, it is by no means clear that even their complete removal would increase sales substantially since, as already noted, the policies of the developing countries are so crucial. Removing the gate at the church entrance does not necessarily bring people into the church. Nevertheless, the abolition of restrictions cannot help but have some beneficial effect and may even inspire the developing countries to act more vigorously at home to take advantage of the new export opportunities.
A principal deterrent to exports arises from the tariff structure in advanced countries. In general, raw and partly processed materials enter duty-free or at low duties, whereas manufactures bear the highest duties. The rates on the latter tend to vary according to the ratio of direct labor costs to total cost of the product. Clearly, this militates against precisely those shifts in the pattern of production and exports in developing countries that should be encouraged-from raw materials to more processed goods and within the latter category toward the manufacture of goods requiring intensive use of labor.
Except for cotton textiles, in which world trade is now generally governed by an international agreement, the United States has no quota restrictions on imports of manufactured products. But because of the fear of "disrupting the market," various Western European countries and Japan still maintain a hard core of such restrictions against products of interest to developing countries.
Market disruption is more a political and social problem in the advanced countries than an economic one. None the less, it poses real difficulties in the effort to dismantle restrictions-particularly in declining, stagnant or slowly growing industries. The formal principles embodied in the cotton textile arrangements-gradual expansion of access by importing countries, combined with the exercise of restraint by exporting countries-are pitched in a liberal direction, but there is a solid basis for believing that the actual administration of the arrangements has been unduly restrictive. It is to be hoped that in the future more reliance will be placed on expanded assistance in making domestic adjustments within the advanced countries and less on extending the scope of restrictive trade arrangements.
A joint statement submitted by the developing countries to last summer's meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the U.N. Trade Conference said: "The removal of obstacles to the trade of developing countries is important, but the accelerated development of the parts of the world which are lagging behind requires more than the unconditional application of the most-favored-nation principle and the mere reduction of tariffs." In the view of the developing countries, arguments in favor of financial aid to them apply also to the granting of preferential treatment to their exports of manufactured products.
The developing countries are not alone in their drive for preferences. The European Economic Community has expressed some sympathy for the idea and has invited GATT to study "various relaxations of present rules regarding non-discrimination." The United States, while going along with proposals for the study, has expressed strong reservations in principle and has noted the absence of authority for preferences under existing U.S. legislation.
The issues in this debate are complex. There is much to be said for some relaxation of the most-favored-nation principle to permit regional trading arrangements among developing countries where they fall short of full customs unions or free-trade areas. But it is doubtful whether "positive discrimination" by industrial countries in favor of imports from developing countries would increase these substantially. Indeed, pressure for preferences might intensify the feeling in advanced countries that additional measures are needed to protect domestic markets against "low- wage imports." Despite the ideological appeal of preferences, it would seem far more important to get rid of existing restrictions and discriminations against such imports, and for the developing countries to adopt a coördinated program of domestic action to promote exports.
High on the agenda of the U.N. Conference will be the question of how the developing countries can expand their exports into the rapidly growing economies of the Soviet bloc. Soviet propaganda has played on the theme that Western trade with the developing countries is exploitative and unstable, and that there are vast possibilities for stable trade with the East on more favorable terms. The Conference will provide an opportunity to examine the realities of trade with the Soviet bloc and the kinds of measures needed to advance the interests of the developing countries in this trade. So far it is extremely small; imports by the Soviet bloc from developing countries amount to only about $1 billion as compared to imports of $19 billion by the industrial countries of the free world.
A major cause of this is the Soviet bloc's insistence on the bilateral balancing of accounts. In general, a developing country is not paid for its exports in convertible currency but simply receives the right to purchase up to an equivalent value of Soviet goods. Unless there is a reasonable prospect of the desired goods being available, trade will not take place; otherwise the developing country would find itself in the strange position of extending credit to its advanced trading partner.
Bilateralism, though prevalent, is not an essential feature of a socialist country's trading system. The Soviet Union pays in convertible currency when it buys from the United States and Canada. Its insistence on bilateral settlement when buying from less developed countries is a reflection of the market power which, as a state trader, it is in a position to exert vis-à- vis weaker countries.
One of the principal Soviet claims is that long-term bilateral agreements offer a measure of stability to its trade with developing countries that cannot be matched in the sharply fluctuating markets of the West. However plausible this claim may appear in theory, data introduced at the Preparatory Committee show wide year-to-year fluctuations in Soviet-bloc purchases from individual developing countries within the framework of bilateral agreements. Of interest, too, is the fact that bloc imports consist overwhelmingly of food and raw materials despite the Soviet charge that a similar concentration of imports by the Western countries reflects their neo-colonialist tendencies.
Until the preparations for the U.N. Trade Conference were under way, international attention had focused almost exclusively on the measures to be undertaken by the free-market economies of the West to expand export opportunities for the developing countries. Now for the first time the spotlight is on Soviet trade policies and practices, in order to ascertain what rules should be adopted by countries with centrally planned economies to make their commitments comparable to the commercial agreements undertaken by Western countries in GATT.
The British took a major initiative in proposing such principles at the last meeting of the Preparatory Committee. Although presented as illustrative, they parallel precisely the commitments called for in the GATT "program of action." For primary products, for example, they would in effect amount to allowing imports from developing countries into the Soviet bloc in accordance with the volume of internal demand at world market prices plus distribution costs; purchases would not be impeded by internal taxes or quantitative import restrictions.
Acceptance of commitments of this kind would have far-reaching implications for the Soviet bloc. Members of the bloc, instead of continuing to assign a low priority in national development plans to imports from developing countries, would subordinate other elements of their plans to an expansion of such imports. In order to finance increased imports and consumption of tropical products, for example, they might have to cut down on domestic capital formation and seek additional markets abroad for the products of the Soviet machinery and equipment industries. This would be equivalent to the kind of adjustment faced by a free-market economy when, confronted with balance-of-payments pressures, it avoids imposing restrictions on imports of coffee, cocoa and other products of importance to developing countries and instead seeks to achieve equilibrium by expanding exports.
It would, of course, be illusory to expect debate at the U.N. Trade Conference to bring about any such sweeping change in policy on the part of the Soviet bloc. But the pressures generated may well induce some greater willingness to accommodate national plans to more imports from the developing countries.
If a real détente in East-West relations should occur, with a resulting reduction in the Soviet arms budget, not inconceivably there would follow a major increase in Soviet imports from developing countries of both primary products and manufactured goods. The Soviet bloc might decide that the way to maximize the total resources available to it would be to step up the manufacture and export of civilian capital goods to the developing countries in return for much larger imports of basic and manufactured consumer goods. In coffee alone, the per capita annual consumption in the Soviet Union is 0.1 kilogram as compared to 4.3 kilograms in France and 7.3 in the United States; this one example suggests the scope for expanding Soviet trade with the developing countries.
Whether or not we favor greater trade between the developing countries and the Soviet bloc, its potential volume is such that it becomes important to protect the interests of the developing countries; this could be done by restricting Soviet action through international commitments of the sort under discussion in connection with the U.N. Conference. In this way, it should be possible to impose some constraints on practices tending to victimize developing countries by exploiting monopolistic state-trading positions and manipulating trade for political ends.
Whatever else emerges from the United Nations Conference, of one thing we can be sure. Some new organizational arrangements will be established within the U.N. framework to provide a continuing rallying point for action to deal with the trade problems of the developing countries in their broadest context.
GATT, the only general international trade organization now in existence, is not formally a part of the U.N. system. Moreover, there is a widespread feeling among developing countries that it is inadequate to the task of making trade a more effective instrument of development. Some have gone so far as to urge its abolition and replacement by a new body competent to deal with the trade problems of the developing countries "in all their interrelatedness." Most developing countries, however, want to keep GATT and improve its effectiveness.
Why the disenchantment with GATT among certain influential developing countries? In part, it reflects a sense of frustration with the painfully slow rate of progress in solving their trade problems and a psychological need to lay the blame on someone or something. Rationally, one can argue that organizations such as GATT are not independent entities but merely governments acting in concert. GATT should not be blamed therefore for the failure of governments to act; nor can the situation be remedied by establishing a new organization with a new name. To this line of argument, however, one of the spokesmen of a developing country replied: "There is one thing you do not understand. The reason we need a new organization is simple: GATT has no soul."
This alleged soullessness is not easy to pin down. It was perhaps best summed up in a Brazilian memorandum recently submitted to the United Nations: "For practical purposes, GATT is now, as it was at its inception, the trade framework of developed countries. It has been modified at its periphery, but remains unchanged at its core." The truth of the matter is that GATT is a living, evolving organism which bears little resemblance in 1963 to what was created in 1947. Over two-thirds of the 73 countries affiliated with it in one form or another are underdeveloped and their special trade problems are today a major preoccupation of the organization.
The transformation of GATT dates back to 1954-1955 when the General Agreement was subjected to review and revision. A main result was to accord freedom of action to developing countries with respect to the commercial policies they deemed necessary to further their development. But the subsequent evolution of GATT into an organization deeply committed to promoting the trade of developing countries is reflected not in any formal revisions of its charter but rather in its actual activities. Among them are the commissioning of "Trends in International Trade," the report which gave the first international expression to the significance of exports in the development process; the establishment of Committee III to analyze in depth the trade problems of developing countries and to give impetus to international action to deal with them; the adoption of a set of basic principles on liberalizing access to markets for developing countries; and the recent plan to explore with individual developing countries the specific measures that need to be undertaken internally and externally to enable them to realize their export potential.
The high priority which trade, as a means of development, occupies in the day-to-day work of GATT should perhaps be given more explicit recognition in the formal provisions of its charter. But just as the United Nations itself should not be condemned merely because its charter has never been revised formally to reflect the enormously expanded scope of its responsibilities, so should GATT not be condemned because of the failure of its legal provisions to catch up with the reality of the evolving organism.
Nevertheless, there is merit in establishing continuing arrangements within the United Nations itself for considering the trade problems of the developing countries. For one thing GATT has not really addressed itself to the special problems arising in trade relations between the developing countries and the Soviet bloc. Although Czechoslovakia, Poland and Jugoslavia are affiliated with GATT, the Soviet Union maintains no relationship with it. Moreover, the underlying premise of GATT's rules and operations is that of a basically free-market trading system. The one article of its charter concerned with state-trading enterprises is grossly inadequate as a basis for ordering commercial relations with Communist countries, all of whose foreign trade is conducted by the state. A forum in the United Nations could focus continuing attention on this problem and could stimulate an evolution of Soviet-bloc trade policy along lines more responsive to the needs of the developing countries.
There is also much to be said for a U.N. forum as a way of bringing together in one place a periodic discussion of all interrelated aspects of trade and development as they emerge in the various global organizations having competence in these fields-GATT, the International Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Food and Agriculture Organization and other bodies with responsibilities relating to primary commodities. After all, trade and aid are both instruments for accelerating the process of development, and policies with respect to the one impinge on the other. Aid can, for example, be used to help identify and finance export industries. At the same time, trade can be a means of channeling aid, as in the case of some commodity agreements, or it can operate to vitiate the effects of aid through import restrictions in the markets of developed countries.
Fortunately, the need for a trade and development forum can be met without a further proliferation of the existing complex structure of international economic organizations. In the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) of the General Assembly, there already exists a framework broad enough to bridge the gaps that have been mentioned. With the will to do it, the necessary adaptation of this structure should present no insuperable obstacles. Ample time would have to be set aside in both bodies for regular "trade and development sessions." But basic to the success of the operation would be a determination on the part of governments to send qualified experts to the meetings and a willingness to shift the emphasis from political speech- making to serious concentration on real economic problems.
It would be regrettable, however, if so much time and energy at the forthcoming U.N. Conference were devoted to debate over new institutional arrangements that the urgent substantive trade problems of the developing countries were overshadowed. The world is looking to the U.N. Conference to point the way to concrete measures to accelerate the increase of exports from developing countries. In the last analysis, its success will depend on the extent to which it helps to mobilize a political will to act on the part of countries in all stages of development.
[i] More than any other single individual, Dr. Prebisch, a Latin American economist of outstanding distinction, has succeeded in focusing attention over the years on the interrelationships between trade and development. Although his ideas have inspired a whole generation of economists, particularly in less developed countries, Dr. Prebisch has proven himself to be more than a creator of new and controversial doctrine. He is a man of practical bent as well and he sees the Conference primarily as an opportunity to consider and marshal support for concrete measures to assist the developing countries.