WTO ON AGRICULTURE: OVER A DECADE OF FALSE HOPES

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Date: 25 November Type: Statement Source: PCFS Keywords: WTO, Agriculture, Agreement on Agriculture

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) recently released its critique of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) and the much anticipated ’Bali Package’.

The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) is an international treaty of the WTO. It was negotiated during the Uruguay Round of the GATT and entered into force with the establishment of the WTO in 1995. The idea is to reform the global agricultural system, shifting from agricultural price support to producer support. AoA has three basic pillars: (1) removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers; (2) reduction of domestic subsidy and (3) reduction of export subsidy.

Over the years, AoA has not fulfilled its promises of development to the people. Instead, it has worsened the conditions of small-scale food producers while giving leeway to corporations to accumulate more profit.

The 9th WTO Ministerial Meeting that will be held on 3-6 December 2013 in Bali, Indonesia under the leadership of Roberto Azevêdo of Brazil as the new director general of the organization is expected to renew and rejuvenate policies that would further liberalize the trade system. It is expected that the Doha Round of negotiations (whose objective is to lower trade barriers around the world to increase global trade) will be renewed in the discussion through the “Bali Package.”

The Bali Package was the result of the January 2013 meeting of trade ministers from the most powerful countries, including the United States (US), European Union (EU), Canada, Australia, Brazil, and India during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The mini-ministerial discussed the progress of the WTO negotiations and thus came up with the Bali Package, which is a set of smaller Doha Round deliverables expected to be finalized, signed and sealed at the Ministerial Meeting in Bali. The deal consists of three key issues: trade facilitation, some issues of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and agriculture.

Agriculture is one of the main issues that have emerged as the basis for the 9th Ministerial along with trade facilitation. The G33 proposes giving developing countries more freedom to spend public money on grain reserves, and two other proposals are on tariff rate quotas and export subsidies. According to the WTO, the proposal seeks to supposedly address the need to safeguard food security, rural livelihoods and rural employment by intensifying the food production of the developing countries.

The PCFS critique pointed out that the Bali Package on agriculture further justifies the intensification of food production by pointing at the high and volatile world food prices, along with uncertainty in supplies in the international market due to production variation as a result of climate change and financial speculation.

As the 9th Ministerial Meeting of the WTO this year aims to “rejuvenate and renew the constructive spirit of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations” – CSOs must be prepared to expose and oppose the neo-liberal agenda behind such ‘development’ promises of the multilateral trading giant.

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