Agricultural negotiations in WTO

(signatories see below) For Immediate Release: April 23rd, 2004 Agriculture Negotiations at the World Trade Organization

The European Union and the United States Launch New Effort to Impose their Joint Pre-Cancun Ministerial Proposal for Agriculture Trade Over Broad Country and Civil Society Opposition by Pushing a "Framework" Agreement.

GENEVA – Through a series of meetings and consultations, the European Union (EU), the United States (US) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Secretariat staff are trying to re-vitalize the WTO "Doha Agenda" with agriculture as one of the key issues. Although the EU and the US appear open for dialogue, in reality there are no substantial changes in their negotiating positions. They still stick to their common pre-Cancun position on agriculture and continue to push for more access to agricultural markets, especially in Southern countries. Simultaneously, there is not the slightest indication that either the EU or the US are prepared to stop dumping agricultural products, that is exporting products at very low prices, below the cost of production. Dumping is only possible because of low internal market prices, combined with "green box" direct payments or other hidden export subsidies, all of which the WTO facilitates.

As long as agriculture remains in the WTO regime, such policies will continue to dominate trade in agriculture. The only viable solution is that the WTO must be removed from agriculture. The EU, the US, and a selective group of countries are meeting in London on the 30th of April to try to break the deadlock in the current agricultural trade negotiations. They will also use an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) side meeting in Paris on the 14th of May to push forward WTO negotiations. Press reports announcing that key G20 members – such as China, India and Brazil – will be invited to join this exclusive "mini-WTO ministerial" indicate that agriculture will be high on the agenda. At the moment, the EU and the US are trying to impose a watered down, general agriculture framework, barring any details and figures, in order to lock all WTO member countries on the trade-liberalisation track and to announce success in WTO negotiations this July, which is an internal deadline for declaring that the Doha program is back on track.

Equally worrying is that the G20 seem to be open to negotiate along the lines being proposed by the EU and the US, which would require G20 countries to open their markets while tolerating a continuation of dumping by the EU and the US! The EU is proposing a bi-lateral deal to the Mercosur countries, offering increased beef exports to the EU in return for unacceptable trade-offs in terms of services, industrial goods, government contracts and investments in the WTO negotiations. This deal will hurt EU-beef producers, as well as the people of the Mercosur countries, as it organises further EU-US corporate "take over" of public sectors and investment in these countries.

The current dynamics in the WTO-negotiations confirm that "nothing has changed," despite the emergence of strong developing country blocks, such as the G20; the Alliance of Least Developed; and, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries that united to stop the negotiations in Cancun. Dominant powers keep trying to impose their own liberalisation policies, which destroy peasant based food production, especially in the developing countries, and support the export interests of trans-national corporations.

We call upon governments to reject the WTO agriculture policies imposed by the EU and the US and to adopt the following steps: 1) Stop any further negotiations leading to further "liberalisation" in the agricultural sector. 2) Start international negotiations in a more appropriate international frame work, where food and agriculture are not subject to horse-trading, on the following issues: – the ban of any form of public support if used to export at prices under the cost of production, including export subsidies, green box direct payments linked with low internal farm prices, or other such instruments; -the right to protect domestic food production against low price imports through the application of tariffs and import quotas.

It is a basic right to protect and develop food production for domestic needs. There is no "right to export." Food should only be exported if there is a justified demand and must not destroy domestic food production; and, -a legal international instrument to curb overproduction especially by supply management in the exporting countries.

This will require a re-opening of the debate on commodity agreements, as well as discussions on effective supply management schemes at the national level in exporting countries. 3) Give a stronger role to FAO and UNCTAD to discuss these issues, incorporating the views and demands of peasants, small scale farmers and fishers, and civil society organisations. Issues must include peasant based (instead of corporate based) sustainable food production with local resources (instead of industrial inputs) in a perspective of stronger domestic food and agricultural policies at the national level. In this regard, there must also be a stronger commitment of the state, as well as commodity agreements and trade regulations that protect those who are the most vulnerable producers, while placing limits on the practises of trans-national corporations.

Signed by: APVVU – India, Aras Institute-Indonesia, Asia Pacific Network on Food Sovereignty, CENSA-USA, COECOCeiba-Amigos de la Tierra-Costa Rica, COSADER-Cameroon, Focus on the Global South-Thailand , Food First-USA, IATP-USA, IBON-Philippines, Institute for Global Justice-Indonesia, IRDF- Philippines, MIJARC, NAWF – India, Public Citizen-USA, Oakland Institute-USA, PAN Asia-Pacific, Peoples food sovereignty Network Asia Pacific, Q-Bar-Indonesia, REDES-Uruguay, ROOTS for Equity-Pakistan, Sintesa-Indonesia, RRAFA-Thailand, Via Campesina-International
NOTES: )° The G20 is a group of countries with the following members: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Venezuela. )°°Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Chile Peru and Bolivia are associated members.