International Development (Brandt Report)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:38 am on 12th December 1980.

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Photo of Mr Guy Barnett Mr Guy Barnett , Greenwich 11:38 am, 12th December 1980

It would take a long time to answer the hon. Gentleman's point in detail, but in general I agree that the developing countries should be able to diversify their economies. I do not accept, however, that that would necessarily increase unemployment in the developed world. The brief answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that we shall not achieve the position that he so obviously wants without a radical change in the world economic system.

Our problems are surely as of nothing compared with the problems faced by the developing world. The fact that it is suffering far worse than we are is a reflection of the world economic system, in which there is an unequal power relationship between the developed and the developing world, between North and South. It is a relationship in which the Third world is largely a passive recipient of what the advanced countries decide to give. We and the other OECD countries bear that measure of responsibility here. We are living in a state of near economic colonialism, born of the fact that large sections of the developing world were once ruled by the West.

It is evidenced in the pattern of trading relationships that exists between the rich and the poor. The Third world trades overwhelmingly with the advanced countries—75 per cent of its trade is with OECD countries. For the advanced countries, however, trade with the Third world accounts for only a minor part of their total. Add to that the way in which the terms of trade have affected many raw materials and the producers of those raw materials, the volatility of the price of raw materials—copper has been referred to in the debate—the heavy unemployment that pervades the developed world and the effect that has on markets for the developing world, and bear in mind as well the oil crisis, and one begins to realise the appalling position of the developing countries and the failure of the world economic system to cope with the problem.