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HNMUN 2015 Committees: UNCTAD - Development through Fair Trade

Sugar Cane Harvesting Machine in Brazil
Sugar Cane Harvesting / UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

“The advantages of established First World industries are still formidable.
The only reason developing countries have been able to compete
with those industries is their ability to offer employers cheap labor.
Deny them that ability, and you might well deny them the prospect of continuing
industrial growth, even reverse the growth that has been achieved.”

Paul Krugman in Slate, March 1997

“After all, if it's okay to enrich ourselves by denying foreigners the right
to earn a living, why not enrich ourselves by invading peaceful
countries and seizing their assets? Most of us don't think that's a
good idea, and not just because it might backfire. We don't think
it's a good idea because we believe human beings have
human rights, whatever their color and wherever they live. Stealing assets
is wrong, and so is stealing the right to earn a living,
no matter where the victim was born.”

Steven E. Landsburg in Forbes, March 2005


Trade liberalization is a recurring issue in the international development discourse. Proponents of the Washington Consensus maintain that all barriers to international trade, both direct (such as tariffs) and indirect (such as export subsidies), should be removed. Critics argue that supposedly free trade does not imply fair trade. That is, ‘developing’ countries, especially sub-Saharan African and South Asian nations, might be at a disadvantage vis-à-vis ‘developed’ countries, resulting in exploitation and economic stagnation.

Fair trade proposes to solve this problem by ensuring that producers in developing countries receive fair prices for their products. This is supposed to improve their living standards and facilitate economic development. Fair trade also claims to combat other obstacles to development, by demanding higher workers’ safety standards and abolishing practices such as child labor. However, not all developing countries are willing to implement these ‘Western’ standards at the cost of losing substantial parts of their workforce and reducing the relative competitiveness of their economies.

Food Shortages in the Midst of Plenty
Food stalls in Dakar / UN Photo/Rozberg

At the same time, 38% of the European Union’s 2014 – 2020 budget is set to be spent on agricultural subsidies. Likewise, the United States subsidizes domestic farmers through programs such as federal crop insurance. This has no doubt contributed substantially to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Development Round failing to produce a result, as it greatly improves European and US-American farmers’ market position relative to the rest of the world.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) at Heidelberg National MUN will have to negotiate between the positions of the Global North and the Global South, remembering at the same time that there is substantial heterogeneity within these two groups of countries, while trying to accomplish what the WTO has so far failed to do: produce a new consensus on fair trade and development.

For a list of UNCTAD member states, take a look here .

The UNCTAD Study Guide for Heidelberg National MUN 2015 is now online. For a general overview on committee preparation, take a look at suggested Preparation Opportunities .


Meet your chair: Max Huppertz

 Max studies Economics in Heidelberg (Germany) and recently spent a year at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (USA). He participated in the Harvard World Model United Nations Conference in Melbourne (2013).






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