At a press conference in Brussels on April 10, the heads of agricultural organizations in the European Union (COPA-COGECA) and Japan (JA ZENCHU) drew attention to the risks a final agreement at the WTO would pose to the economy and supply security.
Lamenting the fact that "consumers don't realize what is at stake at the WTO," COPA President Jean-Michel Lemétayer emphasized the risk of the world food supply falling even further out of balance, which could call the conclusion of any agreement sharply into play.
Lemétayer went on to say, "At the WTO, we are moving toward a trade agreement that would lead to serious reductions in the EU's agricultural production. The EU is already the world's largest importer in terms of food products, but we will become even more heavily dependent on imports for a number of such basic staple foods as beef, poultry, pork, butter, sugar, fruits, vegetables and eggs."
His concerns were shared by the Japanese agricultural leaders, who pointed out that food self-sufficiency in their country had dropped to 39%.
Furthermore, COGECA vice president Paolo Bruni stressed that such an agreement would pose a serious threat to agriculture in developing countries, which "will have to face up to increasing competition from large-scale farms and multinational operators in countries such as Brazil and the United States."
At the same time, complete liberalization of agricultural markets as envisaged by the WTO is very likely to be accompanied by increasing economic risks for the various stakeholders in the market, from producers to speculators to governments.
As noted by the heads of the two agricultural organizations, who observed that price volatility has increased for agricultural products, "A trade agreement at the WTO would only leave us more vulnerable to this price volatility," which is likely to worsen under the effects of climate change.
These economic risks will also compound the risks to which consumers are already subject, thus having a slightly broader impact on food security in most countries around the world.
That is why it is essential to prevent international risks from snowballing, as they would if a superficial agreement were signed at the WTO, and to restore agriculture and its main areas of influence (the environment, development, growth and security) to a central role in international negotiations.