Rethinking international trade and economy
Earlier this year, I argued that free speech is peace directed, and for me the same is true for every other global issue confronting humanity. For instance, the notion of international trade as a mechanism for enduring peace is not a new idea, but it is certainly an idea that needs rekindling as we advance discussions on what a progressive and inclusive trade agenda might look like. Early thinkers explored the aspiration of peace in an international trade context and the need to be cautious of commerce as an enabler of war. While economic superpowers attribute conflict to religious differences, we barely need to poke the veil to understand these conflicts are rooted in disputes over lands and resources. Where the exploitation of resources located in contested and colonised boundaries has yielded untold wealth for the few and with that wealth, the ability to militarise the State and establish regional hegemonies. A progressive and inclusive trade agenda must be committed to undoing the centralisation of power among wealth hoarders. But that does not mean commerce is inherently bad. Māori must be engaged in commercial activity if we want to be freed from the State. We just need to radically shift how we talk and think about trade, economy, and our relationships to land, resources and to each other in commerce.
We need a vision that is aspirational to keep us striving to be better and to do better. For me, that vision is peace. We must be prepared to move to a values based economy that is peace directed.
Shifting our thinking about trade and economy to values based activity, will enable us to make the transition from power storing to power sharing. We need to unlearn commerce for profit, and restore commerce for peace – where trade was established through whanaungatanga and the activity was reciprocity based – a sharing economy that was redistributive and regenerative.
The alternative to ‘free markets’ and ‘free trade’ is not ‘the State’. It is freed markets and freed trade. Freed from failed ideologies, freed from false histories, freed from broken promises and freed for shaping a sharing economy for future generations.
An area that I’m particularly interested in concerns the exclusion of indigenous economies from special exemptions in world trade law. Exemptions apply to developing countries rather than developing economies, meaning that in the WTO system Indigenous Peoples economic rights and interests are at the mercy of their coloniser. In 2013, the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberalisation raised the issue of indigenous invisibility in the WTO and submitted that globalisation intensified the political and economic marginalisation of Indigenous Peoples worldwide. While I agree that the WTO has not served the rights and interests of Indigenous Peoples, I do have some reservations about the prevailing narratives that lock Indigenous Peoples in to opposition with globalisation and international trade more broadly.
The case against globalisation relies on the adverse or more precisely the destructive impacts of global trade practices and world trade law on indigenous communities. In fact, it would be remiss to try to separate globalisation from colonisation. However, the idea of sharing resources across the globe is not anathema to indigenous practice. The resistance is borne not out of opposition to the sharing of resources across the globe but out of the destruction, that globalisation in practice has wreaked on Indigenous Peoples and their lands, resources, and ecosystems, and in many cases the displacement of entire indigenous communities from their ancestral homes. But globalisation has also provided mechanisms that enable us to connect in easier ways, to share and develop ideas and access things like vaccines and medicines that have improved the lives of many people.
Over the next few months, I want to explore conversations about the diverse perspectives and attitudes of Māori toward international trade and economy. In particular, I will focus on:
Peace over Profits: arriving at a common purpose to achieve an enduring peace
From free markets to freed markets: freed from failed ideologies, freed from false histories, and freed for shaping a sharing economy for future generations
Enabling indigenous economies in international trade: unlocking the lore in world trade
Before I finish, last weekend Its Our Future hosted the “Alternative Progressive and Inclusive Free Trade Agenda” hui over two days at the University of Auckland, if you want to keep up to date on the learnings and perspectives you can visit their website here. Equally, if you are keen to make a submission to the Trade For All Agenda, you can find more info here.
Carrie Stoddart-Smith (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Tautahi, Ngāti Rēhia, Pākehā) is an established blogger (Ellipsister), political commentator and former Māori Party candidate. She holds a Master of Laws in International Law and Politics LLM (Hons) and currently works in Māori development. Carrie is particularly interested in international trade, political economy and indigenous economic advancement. She is suspicious of political ideology that leaves no room for nuance and the lived experience of Māori today.