Behind its glorious appearance of hiking GDP, international trade has also caused irreversible destruction on ecosystem, especially for developing countries in the tropical area. The development of comparative advantages for emerging markets and deepening of global economy interconnection come with a price in terms of pollution, greenhouse gases, deforestation and desertification.
Tropical Countries suffer
International trade can affect sustainable economic development and environment several ways. First, the profit-seeking pressure from free trade can encourage production activities to shift to places where the environment is less sustainable, such as coffee beans planting and logging in Tropical countries. Second, trade liberalization changes the pattern and level of world consumption as well as production, and the effects of these changes go beyond the economic terms into both environmental and ideology terms. Third, trade influences the process of economic development, creating fresh opportunities for the profitable use of productive resources.
Since the 1980s, the increasing the demand for agriculture, crop and livestock products grew accompanying with the rising global trade. With relatively low competitive products, developing started their trade by exporting natural resources in exchange of the capital-intensive goods such as machinery. As a matter of fact, countries in the tropics are among the largest global exporters of key agricultural commodities such as oil palm, rice, soybean, sugarcane and cassava.
However, the only choice to catching up with the surging demand with limited territory is to convert their forest for agricultures and livestock production, which caused a unmeasurable environmental loss totaling US$1.7 trillion in terms of biological diversity and ecosystem balance. The red list on International Union for Conservation of Nature and Nature Resources states that up to 30% of species threats are due to international trade with developed countries such as the UK and US in products grown using destructive practices.
Amazon Forest – More Worries Ahead
The dispute on Amazon forest has been a hot environmental issue for a long time. Although the primary cause for deforestation in the Amazon forest is the mismanagement of Brazil government regarding the excessive cattle ranching and commercial logging, international trade does play an crucial role in accelerating the process. Natural depletion of fuel woods, fruits, nuts, mushrooms has push the eco-system in the verge of collapse and an urgent argument of international collaboration are proposed.
In 2007, Greenpeace also came up with a plan to stop deforestation in the Amazon by creating financial incentives to promote forest protection and in 2009 climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, the “Redd” mechanism proposed that richer countries could offset their carbon emissions by paying to maintain forests in tropical regions. By no means, we can see from the charts above that Brazil did implement sone of these suggestions, yet more aggressive and efficient way of protect this ‘lung of earth’ shall be in plane in the following years.
Green Label – Positive Progress
From 1990s, the European Council Regulation encouraged “environmentally-friendly” packaging of all products traded within the EU. Plenty of manufacturers viewed this “green packaging” measurement as discriminatory and a barrier to free trade, especially for Germany which failed to get approval from EU for its supposedly “eco-friendly” packaging. Although the large scale of adjustment for production line was not cost effective at the time, this policy proved to be a helpful step toward an environmentally-sound Union.
Traditionally, we argue that free trade can benefit countries and create a win-win for both parties, yet taking the environmental factor into account, there are indeed winer and loser in trade: For the importing country, any decrease in resource depletion of the imported product represents an additional gain; For the exporting country, the environmental cost of supplying the global market is am additional loss.
However, the trade-off between economic development and environmental destruction is reconcilable. As incomes rise, demands on resources increase, but at the same time, income growth can also lead to more effective demands for better environmental quality.
In addition, increased incomes make investment in resource-conserving strategies both more affordable and more attractive. Higher incomes and better employment opportunities widen the range of choices thus leaving fewer rural people dependent on environmentally fragile areas, such as steep hillsides, for subsistence.
Technology enhancement for the production process is important for sustainable growth, and an international consensus to put the healthy eco-system in the priority shall be settled sooner than later for the greater good.