Illict Trade

In this weeks New Statesman Misha Glennny reviews  Illicit: how smugglers, traffickers and copycats are hijacking the global economy by Moises Naim editor of Foreign Policy Magazine

I found the review interesting as Glenny is also researching a book on a similar topic but using a different approach. Whilst Naim’s approach (according to the review) is to view the "purveyors of illegal goods and services" as undermining and eroding the "foundations of global economy". 

This is no longer just about crime . . . [It is] about the new economic realities that have brought to the fore a whole new set of political actors whose values may collide with yours and mine, and whose intentions threaten us all."

Glenny interprets this as Naim’s warning to us all but in particular global capitalism that if something is not done and soon, the world as we know it will be no more – illegal exploitation will supplant legal exploitation (my words).

Glenny’s approach is quite different.  He states he has taken the back door route and approaches illegal trade from a root causes perspective.

"investigate the imbalances between developed and developing nations that might leave the latter with no option but to go down the illicit route…….
Albania, for example, cannot sell its citrus fruit into the European Union because its farmers cannot compete with the subsidies that Greek, Italian and Spanish growers receive under the Common Agricultural Policy. The orchards have since been transformed into cannabis plantations as there is a strong and profitable market for this product in the EU. The trade is driven in the first instance not by evil drug smugglers, but by millions of European dope smokers."

A similar story exists for women who are trafficked and sold into prostitution in the West.  Glenny interviewed women from Moldovia who were "literally starving" when they were recruited  to work as waitresses in the cities of Western Europe only to find themselves working in brothels. This same scenario is replicated for women throughout Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The trade in migrant workers is made possible  because of poverty in the South and the needs of Western Europe for ever cheaper labour  such as Spain’s  agricultural and building industries.  European Union immigration polices are based on labour needs which determine
how many migrants are allowed to enter and how many are turned away.  Those not needed are criminalised and proxy countries like Morocco and Libya are used to manage the them.  The dumping of some 500 West Africans   in the Sahara desert by Morocco in September/October last year is a prime example of this.  The recent removal of Sudanese refugees from Cairo (many of whom were trying to reach Europe) which resulted in the death of at least 26 people is another.  In both cases the UNHCR failed to protect the migrants and refugees many of whom had UNHCR ID cards. There has been much discussion in the  European and  US press over  the CIA rendition flights which are not that far from using proxy governments with poor human rights records to police migrants and refugees from the South. 

Children are trafficked for the same reason – there is a supply and there is a demand by the rich nations, the West and Mid East.  Whilst the West is happy to finance the policing of refugees and migrants it does not apply the same level of enthusiasm to police the trafficking of children for sex and labour.   

Returning to the book review, the difference in the two approaches is Naim is looking at illegal trade and trafficking as an economic and moral problem.  He finds the solution in increased policing rather than addressing global poverty in the South and demands from the North for cheaper labour, sexual workers (children and women) and cheaper goods (using child slave labour to for production).  As Glenny states despite the US investing millions in fighting the cocaine and heroin trade, cocaine is getting cheaper and cheaper on the streets and heroin production is uncontrollable in Afghanistan.   We need to think about how these two  force fields, global capitalism and global illegal trade,  work together.  Why
is the price of cocaine and heroin cheaper today than 3, 4, 5 years