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Sunday, April 06, 2003

Writing Contest

There are a number of writing competions aimed at students, and the Guardian, along with Christian Aid, have gotten together to offer one for prospective journalists. In the print editon of Rise, the Guardian's supplement for university graduates, is the following solicitation:

To enter you must submit, in Guardian style, 500 words about the negative impact of international trade on people in Third World countries. (emphasis added)

No evenhandedness? The article must be negative? Can't trade be good for the poor?

Christian Aid's website, to be fair, corrects the above ("negative impact" is replacd by "effect"), but goes on to add:

More than one billion people are living in poverty today. And the gap between rich and poor is getting wider. The global trading system lies at the heart of this inequality.

World trade rules are not entirely fair, I concede (actually, the rules themselves may be fair, but much of world trade as it is conducted derogates from those rules); the existence of agricultural subsidies, to name but one, makes this clear. I also admit that liberalising trade can be (though not necessarily is) disruptive during the transition from a closed economy to an open one. I recognise that the international trade system, while not perfect or even good enough, have improved considerably in the past half-century, and the ideal of a world trading system is well worth pursuing. Poverty has a multiplicity of causes (just read the World Bank's World Development Report 2000/2001), and the idea that trade rules are solely or even principally responsible is specious.

That's me, though. Pity Christian Aid does not want budding student journalists to make up their own minds.