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Figures to juggle with

Posted by Helen Tuesday, January 18, 2005

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Europe there is an article by Supatchai Panitchpakdi, Director General of the WTO. Normally the words director general, secretary general, chief negotiator, co-ordinator in chief, what-have-you, send me screaming away from the article. However, I did glance at it, since its title, Trade Relief was of some interest.

Most of it was the usual rather turgid, official stuff about what the various international organizations, in this case a relatively useful one, can do. The emphasis on trade rather than even more aid, as suggested by the UN, Gordon Brown, Nelson Mandela, Bono and, alas Martin Wolf of the Financial Times was sensible but it was still turgid.

What attracted my interest was Mr Panitchpakdi’s figures.

“Consider that Sri Lanka, in 2002, paid import duties to rich countries in excess of $315 million, Indonesia paid $850 million, Thailand more than $1 billion. Taken together those duties constitute 50% of the funds pledged so far for disaster relief. The magnitude of these duties is particularly noteworthy in light of the fact that Norway ($125.9 million) and Switzerland ($245 million)paid far less in duties to other rich countries while exporting considerably more.”
Makes you think, doesn’t it.