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Where Now For Alternative Trade?

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For Focus94 Eamon Murphy of Comhlámh’s Trade Justice Group discussed the future of Alternative Trade, now that the European elections are over.

The European Elections have come and gone, and the results have been well dissected by the media. Eleven MEPs from across the political spectrum have taken their seats in Brussels and most people will now turn away, barely concerning themselves with the goings on in the Belgian capital until the next round of voting is upon us in 2019.

Such indifference is a pity. The European Parliament has a great deal of power on matters that affect our daily lives and the lives of people around the world. One issue on which it has huge influence is international trade. With this in mind, the Comhlámh Trade Justice Group (CTJG) spent the run up to the election campaigning to encourage candidates – many of whom have been elected – to adopt the principles of the Alternative Trade Mandate (ATM); a new vision for international trade that can help raise tens of millions of the poorest people in the world from poverty.

The ATM is an alliance of development and farmers’ groups, Fair Trade activists, aid agencies, environment and human rights campaigns, trade unionists, migrant workers, environmentalists, women’s, human rights, faith and consumer groups and many more from all over Europe. They have a vision of a model of international trade that is transparent and democratic; environmentally sustainable; that places human rights at the centre of the decision-making process; and assists in alleviating poverty, rather than compounding it.

Bruno Ciccaglione is coordinator of the S2B Network, one of the organisations that have signed up to the ATM. He believes that a key problem is that trade negotiations happen behind closed doors. “People are not informed of the impact of any negotiations and even when an agreement has been concluded, we don’t even know the contents. The key issue is democracy”.

Almost two dozen candidates, North and South of the border, signed up to the principles of the ATM in what was a hugely successful campaign by the CTJG.

New MEPS Lynn Boylan, Matt Carthy and Liadh Ni Riada have all signed up while Nessa Childers, who retained her seat in Dublin, has also endorsed the ATM.

Paul Murphy, formerly the Socialist MEP for Dublin, believes that trade policy is being used as a weapon to undermine human rights and the interests of the majority of people in general. “If people don’t get to understand what’s happening, for example with TAFTA or TTIP, these will be used to make things significantly worse. The aim is to educate ourselves and educate others and to mobilise. If we do that, we can have a lot of power”.

Trade, even more so than Aid, has the potential to alleviate poverty in the developing world. It is heartening that Ireland has elected international representatives who have promised to work not just in the best interests of Irish business, but in the interests of poorer countries who struggle to get a fair deal at the bargaining table. The CTJG will continue its work on potentially damaging Economic Partnership Agreements and in promoting the Alternative Trade Mandate.

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