The Hon. Mike Kenneth Moore (Former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Former Director General, World Trade Organization)

09.11.2009 - Interview conducted by the ICD News Team

Mr. Mike Kenneth Moore has been an influential figure in both New Zealand politics and world affairs for the last 30 years. After becoming the youngest Member of Parliament ever elected in 1972, Moore quickly rose through the ranks of New Zealand politics, culminating in his ascension to the position of Prime Minister in 1990. From 1999 to 2002, Moore served as Director-General of the World Trade Organization, overseeing the admittance of China and 9 other nations into the organization and focusing the WTO's attention on helping developing nations participate in the multilateral trading system.

At the conference Mr. Moore gave an extremely interesting and provocative lecture entitled A World Without Walls - Freedom, Development, Free Trade and Global Governance. He argued for importance of continuing the process of globalisation, stating that free market economics is the best way of moving people out of poverty. He also warned about the prospect of de-globalisation in the global warning and warned against this. Mr. Moore kindly took some time to answer a few questions from ICD News.

You state that it is de-globalisation rather than globalisation that we need to fear. The global economic crisis and its consequences have seen the rise of protectionist, tribalist and racist parties. What role can you see cultural diplomacy in countering this phenomenon?

Well I think cultural diplomacy is about getting people to understand and respect each other and that is important. Essentially, if you get kids and people to talk together they will have far more in common with each other than they realise. This is what the young people are doing. It is also important that older people are also talking in ways that were unimaginable in our parentís times.

During your time as head of the WTO you worked hard and gave a lot of attention to helping poor countries participate in the multilateral trading system. How did you go about facilitating this and has it been successful?

I think in the main it has worked, although negotiations are currently stalled. I went out of my way to ensure that the agenda was based on development of the poor countries. I mean trade is development, particularly in terms of agriculture, and for Africans and Latin Americans this was the main thing. You have a number of countries who cannot afford to have embassies in Geneva, so we set up systems to help them get online, to help them with administrators and with access to meetings. A lot of countries donít have time or ambassadors to read all the newspapers, so we send news bulletins. We also help countries without the resources to take legal cases, so we set up a fund to help them. All this was confidence building as well. However the real deal has yet to be struck, negotiations are painfully slow. None have ever finished on time, others have totally failed or not gone far enough.

Globalisation has a Western outlook, however, with the economic rise of India and China, do you think the West needs to give more room to the East?

Well I think the East will make its own space, it doesnít need permission and it is already doing it. The question is will it be done in a multilateral framework, where the rule of law prevails? The absence of decisions being made at the Doha Round means bilateral and regional deals are breaking up. The world is not going to change, it already has. There are probably a million Chinese working in Africa. This data is 6 months out of date, so there are probably 1.5 million now. Can we handle these in a framework in legal understandings and disputes or are we going allow the jungle to prevail? That is up to us but we have it within us to fix it.

The name of our event is partly inspired by your book a ĎWorld Without Wallsí. One of major problems facing global leaders today is dealing with terrorism and extremists who want to build barriers. How can we deal with these threats and how can trade help solve these issues?

Firstly, it is important to note that the world without walls is not a world without rules, values standards, agreements, laws, habits and decency. A free market without laws, values, habits and decency is not a free market itís a black market. So globalisation has to be managed by rules. Most trade is carried out under the umbrella of the WTO and other standards of rules. You have to believe that education drives up development and brings better results and that poverty is a breeding ground for extremists. I believe that it is no secret that extremists find sanctuary in closed economies and dangerous places, this is where those ideas prosper. Itís a curious thing that a lot of suicide bombers and a lot of leaders of such groups are not poorly but highly educated. A lot of intellectuals throughout history have misled working class people into all sorts of cul-de-sacs. You can see this in fascism, Marxism and some of Islamic fascism that exists today. You have to believe that the rising living standards, the emancipation of women, the freedom from fear, freedom of religion and freedom from religion will squeeze out a lot of the extremists and I believe it will. These great changes in history, such as the French revolution, the October revolution the Maoist revolution in china, I doubt would have been successful if working people had employment and there was hope of progress and social confidence. I think most people donít support violence unless they have to. I believe trade is a generator of wealth and opportunity. That is only one thing. Trade on its own without regulations, rules and standards is a black market.

This week we have been discussing a ĎWorld Without Wallsí mainly with regards to political ideology and cultural difference. Is it important to consider the walls that still exist between rich and poor?

The World Without Walls is a book label and a conference label. But you can prove that discussion and dialogue works, all the evidence is there. Today being poor in many countries means you are where the middle class was 50 years ago. Poor people in New Zealand now have a car, a television, a phone and a freezer etc. My grandmother had none of those things. This is not a bad thing this is progress. We donít want to live like that anymore. In New Zealand because the definition of poverty is 40% the average wage there must always be 40% of people in poverty. However there are still desperate things that happen in the suburbs and there is loneliness, there are too many men who use their fists, fathers who stay home and walk out on kids, there are too many corrupt politicians and lazy school children. This is not all the fault of democratic capitalism or trade. For example In New Zealand you have kids that wonít go to school. However in Africa it is completely different, it the teachers who wonít go to school. Yet the children here turn up to school in a clean white shirt every day. How do they do it? They really want to go to school and learn. Itís the system that let them down. The kids are ok, they get it, and the poor kids get it. However if fathers wonít stay at home, if mothers are full of drugs and fathers full of booze and there are no books in the house then of course the kids are going to have it hard whether itís in my country of wherever. Trade and business is just one part of it.

You mentioned your grandmother and said that she did not have a refrigerator, a car or a cell phone. However, she did not have a hole in the ozone layer and other recent problems. How do we reconcile that? What really is progress?

Well I think progress and what is progress can be measured by life expectancy, how many babies are born and live. Our grandparents had eight or nine kids because three or four would die and there was no welfare system to support them and women didnít work in the workforce. This however, in the majority of countries has changed. What are the side effects of it? Well there is this environmental damage. However it is not all bad news. The river Rhine, the river Thames and the Great Lakes of America are cleaner now than they were in our grandparentís time. So, I believe we have actually made some progress. You can fish in the Thames now. The Great Lakes were catching fire in the 1960s. The Thames was so dirty queen Victoria's husband died of typhoid. People donít die of typhoid today if you use a 25 cent anti-biotic. In 1900 life expectancy was around 50, now in the West it is almost 100. This creates problems, now in society we have 60 year olds looking after 80 year olds and, here is the bad news for you, when you are 80 years old youíre going to be looking after your 105 year old parents. Is this bad? I think its good, look forward to it (laughs). The population triangle has changed. When we set up the welfare states, and my country was one of the first to do this, the pensions covered 3% of people, but now it covers 30% so we change age from 60 years to 65 years and it still covers 20%. Not only are you going to have to look after your old parents you probably wonít get a pension until you are 80 years old either (more laughs). So you live longer and youíre going to have to work longer. New Zealand was the second country after Bismarckís Germany to introduce a social security system. We were the first to give women the vote at that point social security covered 3% of the people and it covered a few years of their lives, but today it covers people for 30 years. I think this is progress living longer is a good thing.

Music and arts are also important. 60 years ago when your great grandparents decided to live in America or New Zealand they would never see their parents again and they would never listen to an opera again, they were going to a new world. Now you can download all this music wherever you are in the world. The man who invented the record did not think it would be for music and when telephone invented it was not planned to be open for everyone to talk around the world on. So things I think have improved. People can sit in the Atolls in the Pacific, in a country of 2000 people and listen to operas and music they can get the best medicine from some German scientists and this is great. So I think overwhelmingly itís good. Here is something you wonít like to here, there are more moderate forests now than 20 years ago. We are replanting moderate regions. We can handle many of these problems the world is facing itís not all gloom and doom. Your rivers are cleaner now in Germany than they were 50 years ago this is good, we are learning, slowly. It takes a while.

Thank you so much for your time and your interesting interview Mr. Moore.