University of Tasmania
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The political ecology of international trade

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posted on 2023-05-27, 12:43 authored by Volders, AR
International Trade has become an all encompassing feature of the modern world. Trade across national boundaries now regularly involves the movement of harvested and manufactured goods, finance, information, services, and even the rights to emit pollution. Sustainable development can be considered the dominant framework for analysing the relationship between trade and the environment. This position is heavily influenced by neoclassical economics and involves an acceptance that growth and freedom in trade is necessary to achieve sustainability. Exploration of the mainstream framework finds it to be incomplete in that it fails to recognise the existence of power relationships influential in shaping investment, trade, environmental degradation and ongoing poverty. An alternative political ecology framework with the capacity to build on and critique the sustainable development position, and explore the wider political and economic issues involved in the trade and environment interface is therefore developed. This thesis details a case study regarding the expansion of the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia to investigate the assumptions apparent in the sustainable development position and the wider issues suggested by the adoption of a political ecology framework. The research indicates that the environmental problems of poorer countries such as Indonesia are not just the result of domestic policy failure, but closely related to broader political and economic forces associated with global capitalism and trade. Increasing the permeability of national boundaries to capital, companies and goods has unleashed global economic forces that systematically punish ecologically sound practices and initiatives while rewarding destructive patterns of behaviour. International trade increases the spatial distance between destructive behaviour and the end point of usage. It is the conduit through which many countries obtain the resources necessary for continued economic expansion beyond immediate geographic constraints and is a powerful homogenising influence on economies and cultures. International trade as it is currently practiced has significant political ramifications as it increases the power of wealthy states, markets, corporations and individuals. International trade should be recognised as a closely regulated system built on the uses of hegemonic power. Reformulating the rules of world trade by allowing countries to discriminate against goods which are produced in an unsustainable manner, ending subsidies and implementing cost internalisation and controls on capital flows would do much to mitigate the negative environmental consequences of international trade.


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Copyright 2001 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2002. Includes bibliographical references

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