Trade chief attacks using sanctions as weapon

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 June, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 June, 1994, 12:00am

THE Director-General of Trade, Tony Miller, yesterday denounced the use of trade sanctions as a weapon for improving labour rights and environmental protection.

Mr Miller, speaking at the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association, said experience had shown that they were counter-productive and likely to fail.

He said: ''While trade sanctions are often seized on as a seemingly convenient lever by advocates of a variety of non-trade reforms, generally speaking they do more harm than good. Trade sanctions will not improve labour conditions, instead they will hurt most people they aim to help.'' His speech follows recent comments by Canada's Prime Minister Roy MacLaren, who described trade sanctions as ''hardly compatible with a freer trade movement''.

Mr Miller added: ''We in Hong Kong could not agree more with these sentiments, ardent advocates though we are of both labour rights and environmental conservation.

''Just as free market forces operating internally ensure the best use of resources within a country, so free trade internationally ensures the greatest good for the greatest number globally. ''All barriers to trade, all subsidies, all protectionist devices are environmentally unfriendly, simply because they interfere with this globally-efficient use of resources.'' Some agricultural subsidies, he said, had disastrous environmental consequences because of the use of marginal land and reliance on fertilisers and pesticides.

''Instead of looking at trade sanctions as a way of enforcing environmental standards internationally, we should be seeking out and eliminating all the existing protectionist trade measures which waste resources and damage the environment.'' Trade restraints often resulted from ''closed door deals with vested interests''.

''Discussions in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and elsewhere are beginning to turn the spotlight on these issues and, in particular, on the nexus between competition policy and anti-dumping.

''The trick will be to restore the rights of the consumer. In a global economy, national interests and business interests are only identical when, and to the extent that, they work towards the well-being of common man and woman.''