[LETTERS to the editor]Free Trade: Needed to crush povertyAs globalization spreads all over the world, free trade becomes inevitable. With just a glance at statistics, it is easy to find out how much free trade has increased. The world trade volume from 1948 to 2004 (total exports and imports) has risen gradually with only one downturn in 2001, due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
However, many people argue that free trade increases the economic gap between developed and developing countries. They claim that developing countries suffer from more severe poverty.
When people argue about poverty, they should be clear on which poverty they want to define. Although relative poverty is still prevalent, absolute poverty has noticeably decreased around the world.
Going back 50 years, South Korea was struggling to make ends meet. The fate of South Korea changed when it became a member of the GATT (now the WTO) in 1967. South Korea’s gross national product increased dramatically. Starting from $86 in 1967 the number rapidly grew and in 2004, the GNP was $14,162. If South Korea had locked itself inside barriers to free trade, the results would have been different.
Opening is the key. Developing countries should open up to the world. However, for those who have already opened up, it is important not to become too dependent. Although at first it is important to receive help from other countries, developing countries should try to be independent as well. Leaving their own countries in the hands of others will not help them make significant progress. That is what is happening to the Doha Round. The Doha Round focused on making a more fair free trade system for developing countries. Yet, it seems as if no recent progress has been made.
Therefore, developing countries should throw away the prejudice they have against free trade and take action to reduce poverty.
by Kim Da-young