A new vision for agriculture
momagri, movement for a world agricultural organization, is a think tank chaired by Christian Pèes.
It brings together, managers from the agricultural world and important people from external perspectives,
such as health, development, strategy and defense. Its objective is to promote regulation
of agricultural markets by creating new evaluation tools, such as economic models and indicators,
and by drawing up proposals for an agricultural and international food policy.
logo momagri

Agricultural trade liberalization at the heart of debates in Berlin

Momagri Editorial Board

In Berlin, during the 76th edition of "Green Week", considered the largest agricultural show in the world, the issue of agricultural trade liberalization was at the heart of discussions among 50 ministers of agriculture who gathered for the occasion on 24th January 2011. With an increasingly turbulent international environment, differences continue to persist between States on the details of a greater liberalization of agricultural markets.

In recent weeks, international news has proven eventful to say the least: volatility of agricultural commodity prices in financial markets, soaring food prices in some developing countries, new food riots in Maghreb countries, climate hazards destroying crops, the rise in hunger figures throughout the world... In an increasingly turbulent context, the international community is looking for a consensus and to develop joint proposals.

In Berlin, the ministers of agriculture from 50 countries started discussions by recalling the many political and social risks that can lead to soaring food prices.

From their unanimous findings, they agreed on three major objectives:
    - Combating hunger throughout the world;
    - Combating speculation in financial markets;
    - Searching for practical solutions through coordination between agricultural policies, development, and trade and financial policies.
In doing so, they re-discussed the progress of the Doha Round negotiations aimed at furthering the liberalization of agricultural markets.

As part of these discussions, the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Pascal Lamy reiterated that the chances of concluding the round in 2011 would be “significantly better than last year”. Remember that the Doha negotiations, which should lead to lifting customs duties on thousands of products and drastically reducing agricultural subsidies, began in 2001 in the Qatari capital, but have been at a standstill for over two years because its legitimacy is being questioned by developed and developing countries.

To cope with current crises, the 50 countries present in Berlin put forward two possible and complementary options: an increase in production through higher yields and greater agricultural trade liberalization. At the Davos Economic Forum that has just ended, certain heads of state and government such as Angela Merkel and David Cameron, called for the conclusion of the Doha Round, with the objective of reviving global growth. Also, 2011 will be no exception to the rule: at the beginning of each year, heads of state urge the international community to conclude the Doha Round during the summer.

Faced with these statements, as always, it is better to be wise and not to draw hasty conclusions.

Because, beyond these statements of good intention, interests continue to diverge on how to apply trade liberalization. Every country thinks primarily of its own stability, this was well summed up by the Canadian minister Gerry Ritz: "Everyone wants first and foremost to support their own infrastructure, and trade with others comes after that".

Also, all the States have a political interest in declaring to want to renew the momentum of liberalization under the Doha Round in order send out a positive signal to the international community of a return to confidence and cooperation. Yet, at an economic level, most member States have still not "bought" the package proposed in Doha.

This schizophrenia is actually the inherent problem of the Doha Round, also called, erroneously, the Development Round.

Remember that the Doha Round is not an end in itself, but only a means, among others, to organize international trade in order to maximize sustainable economic equilibrium in the world.

Therefore, the real question to ask if you want to take the current problems head on, is: what role should international trade play in increasing global growth and international food security?

To answer this, it is important to start with the basics and assess the real benefits of trade liberalization in the light of recent events, including the growing financialization of agricultural markets. This is a necessary first step, to then be able to deal calmly with the question of “how?” .
Page Header
Paris, 16 June 2019