End to the Era of WTO’s Free Trade Principle Time for Food Sovereignty

Japan Family Farmers Movement (NOUMINREN) statement on the collapse of WTO negotiation

July 30th, 2008

1.        WTO's closed door negotiation, which had started from July 21st, collapsed on 29th of the same month.  As a result, it is said that the negotiation will be in limbo for next several years and that “the round itself will collapse.”  “No deal is better than bad deal.”  We welcome this collapse.

2.        In the past, WTO negotiation of Seattle in 1999, Cancun in 2003, and Hong-Kong in 2005 have all failed, and the informal ministerial meeting in 2006 has also failed. Since the start of WTO in 1995, it has repeated the history of collapse and failure. This is a natural outcome as the world food supply foundation has destroyed and hunger and poverty are wide-spread under WTO which played a role as neoliberal globalization organization for the interest of TNCs.

3.        The content of proposed final report impose large amount of tariff cut and liberalization for “sensitive products” such as rice, wheat, dairy products, sugar, and starch as well as local key products such as “kon-nyaku”(aka devil’s tongue).  This means the possible threat for the destruction of Japanese agriculture. In addition, the world food crisis may be accelerated as the minimum access rice import of currently maximum 500,000 tons is increased. 

In spite of this, Japanese government accepted the final report proposal for an excuse of “avoidance of international isolation.”  We strongly denounce their action.  In the article of Yomiuri Newspaper of July 21st, it said, This negotiation in one hand impose Japan for “defense” to hold down the tariff cut for such product as rice as much as possible in order to minimize the effect on the national agriculture. On the other hand, Japan will take “offense” in the industrial sector for automobiles and electronics and pressure developing countries to cut tariff. The speech of both ministers (Ministry of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries & Ministry of Economiy, Trade, and Industry) revealed this ‘dualism’.”  However, it is clear that Japanese government gives priority to protect the profit of the industry.  This is revealed from the speech of Mr. Wakabayashi, Minister of Agriculture, as he said "I do not have a strong discontent" or “accept the proposal as the base for the negotiation.

4.        The principle of WTO stands on the assumption that “the world already produces enough food.”  Thus, it promotes “free trade” in which the food is produced in countries where efficient production is possible while “inefficient” countries give up agricultural production. However, the time has changed and “the time where any food can be purchased with money” is over. As WTO still sticks to this old principle, its negotiation will never reach a successful outcome. 

Indian minister in charge of WTO negotiation expressed that, “WTO is not dead, but it is in the middle of ICU and a crematory” since the collapse in 2006.  Using these terms, recent collapse led WTO closer to a “crematory”. If this continues, WTO will take the same path as mammoths, which became extinct at the end of ice age as a result of climate change and became “fossil.”  We must push for this.

5.        Some Japanese media use the terms such as “free trade structure on the verge of a crisis” or “stalled reform with the loss of outer pressure.” However the time of WTO’s free trade principle is over.  It is the time to establish agriculture policies and trade rules based on food sovereignty, which is essential to solve such issues we face as food crisis and climate crisis. We are committed to realize food sovereignty.