It’s taken a while, but we finally have a new international development strategy with trade and investment at the core of its engagement. However, it failed to show how trade deals would produce positive outcomes for poverty reduction, human rights, sustainable development and the climate (British’s new aid strategy was condemned as a “double whammy of the world’s poor”, May 16).

The development strategy should prioritize vulnerable communities and not pursue geopolitical goals or benefits for UK companies. Large amounts of foreign direct investment, as envisaged in the strategy, do not guarantee sustainable development. Inadequate FDI can undermine sustainable development and increase inequality, leading to forced displacement, exploitative working conditions, privatization of public services, environmental degradation, tax evasion, and a lack of corporate transparency.

Free trade does not guarantee prosperity if only the rich benefit from it. Low- and middle-income countries have already proposed measures, including waiver of vaccine patents and more flexibility for governments to hold food stocks as a buffer against global crises. But there is little evidence that the British government is listening.

Pro-development trade must be driven by local farmers, producers and workers. If this is not included in the strategy from the start, there is a risk that it will benefit international investors and shareholders or the UK’s economic and geopolitical interests.

For trade and investment to work for development and climate protection, we need a coherent cross-departmental business strategy.
Ruth Bergan Director of the Commercial Justice Movement; Sandra Martinson Policy Director, Bond; Alexandre Carnoat Head of Policy and Advocacy, Traidcraft Exchange

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