Tamara Kovacs for THE NEW YORK TIMES
Wednesday September 24
At a press conference on the recently-released working paper by the ECOSOC committee, the US delegation caused controversy by commenting that they would not support the reduction of trade tariffs on exports from the developing world.
In response to a comment to the press from the Bangladeshi delegate that many developing nations were losing money through exports due to high tariffs in developed nations, the US delegation responded that the US had no legal obligation to lower tariffs or open trade.
“Developing nations should stop relying on the developed world to support them,” the delegate stated. “They should develop stronger institutions rather than relying on developed nations and NGOs.”
The comments recalled neoliberal ‘individual responsibility’ and ‘pull yourself out of poverty’ arguments, which are often used by the governments of Western nations to excuse cuts to foreign aid and funding.
Despite their previous appearance of unity and optimism, it seems clear now that the US is deeply disconnected from the debate, and more willing to prop up the profits of corporations than to open its market to the developing world for fear of real competition.
The rhetoric drew the ire of the other delegates, but the Indian delegate was quick to change the subject to the issue of NGOs and civil society.
The Bangladeshi delegate however was slow to let go of the trade issue, commenting during later unmoderated discussion that Bangladesh would prefer free and open trade. The delegate for South Africa was called to order after musing aloud that “[T]he US has a history of exploitation”, and joking references continued throughout the day.
It seems unlikely that the delegates of developing nations will forget the slight from the US any time soon, despite the jokes and diplomatic subject-changes.