Letter from 125 non-governmental organisations from 50 countries, calling on the governments participating in the mini-ministerial trade talks in India to reject the further liberalisation of food ... September 2009

Letter to Minister India Sept 09 ENG.pdf88.9 KB

September 2, 2009


Dear Minister,


            We,  125 organizations from over 50 countries are writing to urge you to represent the interests of farmers, workers, consumers, women, and the environment, by rejecting the further liberalization of trade in food in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and instead, calling for policies which will achieve food security, rural development and safeguard farmers’ livelihoods through Food Sovereignty.


            We urge you to not use the Ministerial-level meeting on WTO negotiations which India will host the first week in September, to push for further liberalization of agriculture. We urge you, Ministers, to reject any attempt to push through a conclusion to the Doha Round of WTO negotiations, as the current proposals will exacerbate rather than resolve the crises affecting hunger, poverty and agricultural production globally. The WTO, along with bilateral and regional “free trade” agreements replicating the same neoliberal model in agriculture promoted for three decades by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, allow agribusiness exporters in rich countries to subsidize their products and then export them into developing country markets, disadvantaging small-scale family farmers. Specifically:


*The deregulation of trade in agriculture has resulted in the abolition of commodities boards that helped manage supply, and instead replaced them with commodities markets. These highly deregulated, volatile markets expose farmers to enormous instability due to the dramatic shifts in price associated with the speculative behavior endemic to these markets, particularly in developing countries which have been pressured to sharply reduce their import tariffs.


*The global agricultural system allows rich countries to massively subsidize their agribusiness exports. When these subsidized exports flood into developing country markets, they represent unfair competition for local farmers, destroy local livelihoods, and increase hunger and poverty. The limits that do exist are routinely violated by the United States and EU. The recent Farm Bill passed by the United States does not limit these subsidies to any significant degree. The Food and Agriculture Organization found that all 102 of the developing countries that were studied experienced import surges between 1980-2003; these import surges occurred more frequently after the implementation of the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture.


*The global trade system does not allow for governments to protect and support  sustainable food production for domestic consumption nor to protect farmers from predatory corporate behavior. Many developing country governments are prohibited from increasing protective tariffs, providing fertilizer or other input subsidies, or protecting certain products from global trade, by the WTO, bilateral trade agreements, or IMF and World Bank policies.

These policies, taken together, have resulted in failed global agricultural system including extremely volatile commodities markets, a lack of global access to nutritious and affordable food, an increase in hunger, and the erosion of farmers’ incomes. These policies have culminated in the global food crisis we face today, where about 30,000 people die every day of poverty-related causes, many due to malnutrition and hunger. The FAO estimates that over one billion people are now going hungry, with about 150 million more people experiencing hunger as a result of the current food crisis.


Unfortunately, proponents of further liberalization have sought to take advantage of the food crisis to actually expand, rather than reform, their failed policies. In the current agriculture negotiations in the WTO, the most powerful rich countries are demanding that developing countries further open up their markets, while refusing to reduce the subsidies they provide for agribusiness exports that wreak immense havoc on markets in developing countries.


At the same time, many developing countries are working towards protective policies including carving out farm products from tariff reductions, as well as allowing an increase in tariffs or quotas for products facing dumping – especially for certain products which are essential for food security, rural development, and farmers’ livelihoods. In the WTO, these policies, called Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SP/SSM), are advocated for by a coalition of over 46 developing countries called the G33, and are supported in these demands by an even larger group totaling over 100 developing countries. Unity amongst the G33 for a strong position on Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SP/SSM) is an essential step towards improving the global agricultural system. 


Based on the failure of the current system, many farmers, fisherfolks, other food producers, consumers, scholars, and other agricultural experts have developed alternative models for global agriculture, food sovereignty, that prioritizes the cultivation of local, safe, healthy food for human sustenance, ecological social sustainability. As a first step, governments should reject the Doha Round of WTO expansion and instead support:


1. Strong protections and support for food production for domestic consumption on the national level that must be allowed for within the global trading system. Developing countries must be allowed to exempt a sufficient number of products from global trade that are essential for food security, rural development, and farmers’ livelihoods. They should also be able to maintain adequate tariff levels, and to use measures to stop or reduce imports that are having a negative impact on food security, rural development and farmers’ livelihoods.


2. A global trading system that disciplines corporate behavior, and an end to dumping. All kinds of export subsidies – direct or indirect, including export credit, export credit guarantee and export insurance, non emergency food aid in kind and, above all, all domestic subsidies benefitting to exported products which are infinitely larger than the actual subsidies at the export level – for agricultural products from developed countries must be eliminated immediately. We also specifically call for the ending rich country subsidies in cotton production that damage West African producers.


3. New regulations on the markets, such as disciplines on speculation in the commodities markets, as many African governments have proposed within the WTO. We call for a shift towards a global supply management system for those farm products that are traded internationally.


These policies, taken together, would truly start a strongly needed transformation of the global food system, and deliver important progress towards the achievement of Food Sovereignty and the reduction of global poverty, hunger and malnutrition.




International and Regional Networks

see attachment for signatures