TRADE has always been an economic activity between and among companies, countries, regions, and blocs. It enhances activities toward the realisation of improved goods and services and more so, impacts the socio-economic and even political well-being of the participants. Global trade has been seen in various forms, and programmes given names based on the need or adaptation of the time.
Shapers of global decision-making have described the world as a global marketplace and call for barriers to free trade to be removed, as others call for free trade to be buttressed by fair trade; and there are the congruence of ideas, policies, and laws working towards achieving common ground.
Free trade has caused the removal of tariffs on goods entering countries and also demanded that producers conform to internationally accepted specifications, physical and ingredients. In specific cases, demands are made for goods to enter certain countries such as the United States (U.S.) or European Union to satisfy requirements such as proving that they are not produced by force or child-labour, and made within certain specifications to meet durability standards.
In trading, there is always reciprocity where each participant can benefit from the other. In fact, when the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) products enter Europe under certain guidelines, European products will enter CARICOM countries using the same guidelines. Benefits a group derives will be based on how competitive their product can be at the respective market place, and, for this reason, trading comes with responsibilities.
Trading is one element in the economic process since it complements the production of goods and services. There is a reason why there are trade agreements, such as between the U.S. and Caribbean, or among CARICOM member-states. Between the Caribbean and the U.S., it offers a ready market for goods and services, positively impacting a country’s revenue base, the people’s employment and economic opportunities, and its overall development.
In instances where countries or blocs, such as the U.S. and European Union, make available lines of credit to countries and regions such as the Caribbean, the objective behind this is to make available immediate markets for the exportation of the goods they produced. This is driven by efforts to sustain the company or industries in their home state. And though these create debt in the purchasing country, that debt serves the host country’s national interest, where relationship, levels of dependency, and reciprocity are forged.
Trade also has a political component in expanding a country’s economic might and influence in other parts of the world. It is not an accident that rich countries such as China and the U.S. are competing to get into new markets in Africa, the Caribbean, South America and Asia. This so-called soft power also carries with it the culture of the originating countries and their desire to influence appreciation for their values. While powerful countries are not presently involved in military wars with each other, they have been waging trade wars to expand their influence at the market place and in societies around the world.
Trade brings with it access to the cultures of other countries and aids migratory patterns, mostly to the countries where it is perceived better opportunities exist. And where developed countries are seen in such light, persons will seek to flock to them by any means necessary. The Middle East wars that have resulted in migration and refugee crises, and have the affected pouring into the European countries and the U.S. are seeing negative reactions from the indigenous populations.
Some politicians in those receiving countries have found political currency in creating the sense of apprehension that external trade and migration are resulting in the loss of jobs, loss of cultural values, and decrease in standards of living. They have used these arguments to justify campaigns built on intolerance and govern on protectionist policies. Such actions can create trade wars, spread intolerance among countries and peoples, breed extremists, and result in the pauperisation of others.
Global trade must be encouraged since no country can survive independently of others. And while people pursue freedom, equality and peace, some trade has proven to be building blocks to these. At the same time, this approach to interaction and development creates avenues for cultivating tolerance, respect for others and more so, presents opportunities to reduce hunger, poverty, and other deprivations.