G20 World Trade Talks

What do we want? The completion of the Doha Round of world trade talks! When do we want it? Now!

So here we go again, folks. It is now 10 years since the anti-capitalists attacked the City of London, and next week they intend to outdo themselves. In student bedsits and in terrace Kensington houses, the alienated children of the middle classes are planning to subvert the G20 summit. Across the desolate wastes of the Leftie internet, their wrathful campfires are already burning, and when April dawns they will surge like the orcs of Mordor in the general direction of the Bank of England.

They will taunt the police. They will paralyse traffic. They will do their utmost to spoil your day; and when they have been sufficiently whipped up by the oratory of Tony Benn, and when Billy Bragg has finished his ditties, it is a safe bet that they will begin the chant of hate. Somewhere in the crowd, a nose-ringed twerp will drain a mouthful of cider and call to his comrades. “What do we want?” he will demand.

And at that moment, a great silence will fall in the carnival of cretinous crusties. The papier mâché horsemen of the Apocalypse will turn their heads inquiringly in his direction. “What do we want?” he will demand again, a shade more hysterically, and by this time the rioters will be looking at their feet and coughing. Er. What do they want?

The embarrassing truth is that they haven’t a clue. They seem to be cross about the recession, and also about climate change – even though there is nothing like an economic downturn for reducing CO2 emissions. They are apparently enraged that state money is being used to prop up the banks, though they don’t mind forcing the taxpayer to cough up millions to police their antics. They say they want to “burn a banker” and “stop the City”, and no matter how superficially appealing those ambitions may be, it is hard to see how they can be turned into practical economic policies.

So, in a spirit of compassion, let me give the G20 protesters the slogan they need. Here is a demand they could make that would transform the lives and hopes of millions of the poorest people on earth. It is a global stimulus package that doesn’t involve borrowing untold trillions from future generations. It is something the world’s leaders have been trying and failing to do for the past nine years, and if I were the man with the megaphone my cry would be: “What do we want? The completion of the Doha Round of world trade talks! When do we want it? Now!”

It is unbelievable that we are holding this gigantic summit, with thousands of global politicians and officials descending on London, and after two days of talks we are seriously proposing that they should be allowed to get back into their planes and go home without an agreement on free trade. We are apparently standing on the lip of the greatest recession since the 1930s, and world trade has fallen dizzyingly fast. In a developing country like Thailand – recently seen as one of those Asian tiger economies – it is down 30 per cent. All kinds of protectionism are starting to emerge, from Barack Obama’s Buy America Act to Nicolas Sarkozy’s alarming proposal to repatriate car production to France.

Worst of all, the near-collapse of the banking system, and the shortage of credit, has encouraged the big Western financial institutions to turn their backs on the developing world. Money is being sluiced back home, to Europe and America, with catastrophic consequences for anyone who wants to get a loan in, say, Nigeria. In these circumstances, it is doubly immoral and disgusting that we continue to restrict the access of the developing world to our markets, and that we continue to use huge sums of taxpayers’ money to dump our products on the Third World.

In case you haven’t been following the Doha Round, the thing collapsed in July last year, after eight sputtering years, and everyone has been blaming India. The Indians wanted to be able to retain the right to impose tariffs against sudden surges of imports into their domestic market. Their trade minister, Kamal Nath, raised the possibility of mass suicides of Indian farmers. You might think that sounds hysterical, and you might be right; and yet the Indians have a point.

We Europeans are still spending £40 billion on farm subsidies, and the Americans are spending about £14 billion, sums the developing world cannot afford to match. America still spends at least £3.5 billion a year on subsidising cotton, and about £1.4 billion on rice, and yes, that subsidised rice and cotton could certainly cause havoc with the domestic Indian market if it were allowed to surge in from America; and so the answer is not just to blame the Indians for their intransigence, but to get the Europeans and the Americans to cut farm subsidies. African cotton producers have been more or less wiped out by American tactics. Why should Indian producers go the same way?

It would be nice to say that things are moving in the right direction under President Obama. It would be nice to think that the world’s most famous son of a Kenyan goatherd is going to do something to help Kenyan goatherds – not least since the World Trade Organisation still allows vicious spike tariffs against meat products from Africa. Alas, the omens are not good. Instead, President Obama says that America will “aggressively defend” its “rights and benefits” in trade negotiations, and the paralysis continues.

Of course I am not suggesting that the completion of the Doha Round will solve the banking crisis, and lift the world out of recession. But unless we have the political courage to do a deal, we seem to be legitimating the current disastrous trend towards economic nationalism and protection. I don’t want to read any nonsense in the G20 communique about how they are “resolved” to do a deal. I don’t want them to “reaffirm their commitment”. There is little point in having this summit unless they recognise the gravity of the situation, and sign an agreement next week. So there’s your chant, my crusty friends. What do we want? Free Trade! When do we want it? Now!

[First published in the Daily Telegraph on 24 March, 2009 under the heading: “Here’s a slogan for the G20 mob: What do we want? Free trade!”]

34 thoughts on “G20 World Trade Talks”

  1. So, all we require from our leaders is intelligence, imagination, goodwill and the determination to do what’s right even if it won’t win votes?

  2. I don’t normally have time for those anti-capitalists who are plainly a bunch of carefree-and-bored-with-nothing-to-do-trying-to-be-trendy-Che T’shirt-wearing-urban-guerrillas. You can tell they don’t really know what they are fighting for. To them, as long as it is against capitalism, it is OK.

    With this recession, rising unemployment, greedy bankers… they surely have a lots to fight for. ( The BIG problems of mass immigration from Eastern Europe, bogus asylum seekers and the threats of Muslim and Islamist fanatics… are conveniently not mentioned by their gang leaders, of course ).

    I don’t think they even know about the problem of these farming subsidies which to paint some protest banners against !

  3. Boris does it again! I consider myself working class, (but on the way up!) My Father used to always warn me about phoney ‘socialists’, who – once graduated work in very nice, professional jobs and i’ve seen it with my own eyes! These fake communists are a joke, their siding with religious extremists is not a very funny one!

    What do we want? Patriotism brought back to Britain!!!
    When do we want it? As soon as possible please, if it’s not too much trouble…

  4. Bring back patriotism to Britain, you demand?

    An Indian postmaster has been moved from his job for refusing to serve any customers who don’t speak English. Before he was moved, The Sun newspaper went to interview at his post office. While they were talking, an Eastern European woman came in and just quietly handed a… Giro cheque of £290 of social benefit over the counter, uttering not a single word of English. Just simple like that- as if it was the most natural thing to do. How comical !

  5. What do I want?

    … so it now transpires that for the last 10 years, most of the wealth creation in the City of London, was a scam.

    They earned huge bonuses, but when criticised said: no no no don’t criticise us – we are generating wealth – this is private money.

    Well now it turns out, it wasn’t private money after all.

    Once the pot was empty, and they had bankrupted these great institutions, they turned around to the government and said “fill it up”.

    We, the taxpayer, the people – are going to pick up the tab.

    It is completeley unacceptable.

    I want the banks to be left to go to the wall. Thats the capitalist system isn’t it?? I don’t want to pay tax for the next 30 years, to cover someones Ferrari.

    I want the bankers out of a job. Every single one. It’s unacceptable that while people are loosing jobs and homes – the bankers, who got us into this mess and who get paid vastly more than the rest – have government guaranteed job security.

    I hope to see you all April 1st.

  6. Burn a Banker.

    First, aquire a banker, this should be easy, simply wait outside one of their London offices – Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch or Barclays – any will do. When the banker exists the building, chase after him and grab him. This will be easy because the banker will be weighed down with money. If the banker is too quick for you and escapes, he was probably just a junoir and unworthy of being burnt.

    Once you have aquired your banker, you will also need petrol and matches.

  7. Second Financial Tsunami is coming. Be prepared. Said between April – Sept.

    Commercial Real Estate collapsing
    Massive Credit Card Debt default
    Massive Eastern European emerging market countries default when their economy totally collapsing

    The Second Financial Tsunami is 2 – 3 times stronger than the First one which caused by residential Real Estate bubble.

  8. Cripes, Ricecake! (I think ‘cripes’ is the approved term on this site 😉 ) I’m still working through trying to translate the links but do appreciate you adding them and reminding us this is a global issue.

  9. Cripes indeed Gill.

    The real evil culprit that stirred the Financial Tsunami as well as many of the great crisis is Goldman Sachs Those financial wizards are holding the U.S.A and the world hostage. Create disasters and destruction then profit from it.

    The Fed and the U.S.A’s financial system is actually doing all Goldman Sachs’ bidding.

    p.s. lehman brother is the weaker of the two evil. Godman Sachs finally ride of it’s furious competitor.


  10. Try and get a bid on emerging market corporate debt paper – you may get 50 cents on the dollar if one of the banks answers the email!! I think we’ve bypassed tsunami No.2 and we’re going straight for No.3

    Companies in emerging markets require very fluid capital markets for their daily operations – a few more months of this and you’ll see how those economies begin to falter…

    I don’t mean to be dire…but I don’t see things resolving themselves in the next few months!

  11. I think this article is brilliant, and I could not agree more.

    Matthew in Melbourne, Australia

  12. Oh Boris. Boris, Boris, Boris. Poor Boris. Silly old confused loveable Boris. Dear, dear me.
    Free trade? Come along now boris. Stop acting the giddy goat. Stop horsing around, Boris.
    Oh boris.

  13. Fern Britton quit her £750,000 per year ITV job as the money was not enough for her. 2 days later, the BBC quickly offered a new job which she accepted.

    We want to know how much more than £750,000 per year the BBC has agreed to pay her. And do we need her on the BBC?

  14. I agree with Boris on the free trade idea. One hundred percent.

    On a frivolous note, the G20 summit also means the battle of the wives! Michelle, Carla and Sarah in the Style Wars.

    Sarah, take my advice, forget the New Look beret. It didn’t work for Pattie Hearst and she had money and a gun.

  15. Style Wars, me arse! I bet all them 3 will turn up wearing purples- purple dresses, purple scarves, purple handbags, purple berets, purple shoes… looking like 3 she-male Che Guevara wallies !

    Jackie Obama will look like the most she-male- what with all her muscles.
    Frumpy hen Brown will look like a frumpy pumpkin housewife as always.
    Model Carla will look like a catwalk fashion model as always.


  16. Gordon Brown’s plans to use the G20 summit as a personal life line, to salvage his career and present him as the saviour of the world have blown up in his face.

    That face is now red faced, as it has just been revealed that Britain is heading to the top of the European borrowing league. There is now little chance that his grandiose plans for a massive united fiscal stimulus, involving big spending and tax giveaways, will be accepted at the summit.

    Angela Merkel metaphorically kneed Gordon in the groin by sayying pithily “I will not let anyone tell me that we must spend more money”.

    The Spanish Finance Minister followed up with a blow to the solar plexus by saying “I and the rest of my colleagues from the eurozone believe there is no room for fiscal stimulus plans”.

    Lord Mandelson rushed in with a sopping wet sponge for Gordon’s forehead to declare that he sympathised with the concerns of G20 demonstrators, but he hedged his bets by saying smoothly “Global economic systems have stalled and what we have got to do is get it started”.

    But David and George were moving in suavely with a garotte as George Osborne declared “When it comes to your plans for a second fiscal stimulus, I say this, Gordon Brown. Enough is enough. We will not let you play roulette with the public finances yet again”.

  17. Oh ellen, ellen, ellen ellen! silly, ditsey, loveable, adorable, confused ellen! Stop your fooling, ellen. Stop acting like a giddy goat and read the article again. Brilliant stuff.

  18. My view as an Uruguayan (far,far away small agricultural country) regarding the neverending meetings where they spend a lot of money “considering, evaluating, diagnosing” the worl situation pisses me off.
    Gordon Brown said in his official visit to Chile a couple of days ago, that the London Summit must send a message…bla,bla. No more messages!, we need positive action on rejecting protectionism in order to reshape the financial system. No more subsidies, dumpings or humpings!,those are supposed to be transitory measures in order to re establish normal and FREE trade….but as it usually happens, there’ s nothing more permanent than transitory measures….
    i’m with Mayor Boris, WE WANT (NEED) FREE TRADE, NOW!!!

  19. Firstly, the police operation will only cost a few million, i.e. one banker’s bonus or a tiny, incy-wincy fraction of the fiscal stimulus that is being spent to bail out greedy bankers.

    These bankers have operated in a system that has for too long been taken as granted. A system whereby certain individuals are payed ridiculous amounts of money because banks supposedly try to lure the best. And when they screw up, the result is that hard-working, hard-pressed people with families and pre-existing financial burdens are picking up the bill; many a tax-payer that has simply wanted from life good friends, good health, a drink from time-to-time, maybe a holiday, a family etc.

    This whole system is disgracefully absurd, and has been acepted by people for too long. Now they realise that it shouldn’t have to be like this.

    The name of capitalism has been abused. The distruction of the environment, poverty and many other social ills have been caused by it. I dont believe that it is time for communism, or socialism, just a new capitalist-based system that has some sort of moralality and ethical ideology. And I will be joining the ‘cretinous crusties’, to voice my anger and my very real and fully-understood concerns in one of the very few ways that have been made available to me. There is so much wrong at the moment in this country, and in this world. And when democracy falls apart, and one has to watch the main parties simply bantering on-message and playing politics with our lives, I say thank God for this opportunity to let them have a taste of public outrage. Even if it was without direction, which I do not believe it to be.

  20. Hahahaha !!! Expense fiddling Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has been watching Porn films with her husband at home then claims expense for it !

    MPs: High living on a system that is rotten to the core!

    Meanwhile, pensioners in the UK are to lose free bus travel ! ( Sunday Express, 29/3/2009 ).

    And Nigel Griffiths, married Labour MP has been cleared of sex with a woman in the House Of Commons as ‘ his private life has nothing to do with his MP job ‘ !!! Sorry?!!! Any 2 colleagues or any employee smuggling a stranger into their workplace for sex are SACKED . Remember that airport security guard who arranged on his mobile phone for a stranger woman to come into his office for sex and when was found out, he was SACKED?
    Watch cheating married Labour MP Nigel Griffiths canoodling with that stranger woman in The House of Commons:

    Greedy bankers, greedy MPs… No wonder the protesters will be protesting, screaming, shouting outside the G20 Summit in London this week ( this Wednesday and Thursday? ). And who can blame them?

    Give the bloody, greedy, immoral bankers and the bloody, greedy, immoral MPs a good beating, I say!

  21. If that link doesn’t work, just google:


  22. The best piece on the G20 / and the “protests” that I have seen so far. Bravo Boris!

  23. “London mayor Boris Johnson will face questioning from MPs on how the capital dealt with the heavy snow in early February”

    It was a shambles and Boris Johnson was asleep.

    A while back, Simon Jenkins, Chair of the National Trust, said of Boris Johnson: “We haven’t got a Mayor who’s ever run anything, and it’s very apparent”.

  24. “They will taunt the police. They will paralyse traffic. They will do their utmost to spoil your day;”

    How wonderful to live in a world which offers such Eternal Smugness. How inconsiderate of people to express their right to protest, or even to disagree with an insane economic system which routinely causes poverty, famine, corruption and war.
    Perhaps you would be happier if all protest were confined to controlled spaces, pre-booked for the purpose, and totally ignored. I suspect so. But then, taht’s toryism for you, a club for the smug.

  25. The Suffragettes and Chartists who won you what liberty you have will be crying in their graves to think they had spawned such inbred, flaccid, spineless apologists for authoritarianism and crawling power-worshippers such as the Sun and you.
    Inconvenience is the price of liberty. And to those who appreciate the crap we’re in, demonstrations are no inconvenience at all.

  26. Sir Roger Douglas, New Zealand’s Finance minster in the 80’s removed all our farming subsidies. We now have one of the most efficient and competitive farming communities in the world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Europe and America could show the same courage so all countries involved in the Doha Round could reach a speedy conclusion, benefiting every country, not just the wealthy ones.

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