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.
Olivier de Schutter
  Food security hostage to trade in WTO negotiations

By Olivier de Schutter,
UN right to food expert

Although the Doha Round was launched over ten years ago now, Director-General Pascal Lamy is still hoping to reach a multilateral trade agreement, especially regarding the issues linked to agriculture. Since the conclusion of the Round––as currently envisaged––would have negative consequences for most of the world’s farming1, it is not likely that the Doha Round will bring about an agreement. Today, food security must be placed over the WTO agenda, and it has now become a priority to ensure that increased trade effectively goes hand in hand with the development of agriculture and the improvement of human welfare. This is what Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food2, is recommending in an article written this past November.

Momagri Editorial Board

"The world is in the midst of a food crisis which requires a rapid policy response. But the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agenda has failed to adapt, and developing countries are rightly concerned that their hands will be tied by trade rules.”

This is the warning from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, as he issued recommendations to put the human right to adequate food at the top of the WTO agenda […].

“Food security is the elephant in the room which the WTO must address. Trade did not feed the hungry when food was cheap and abundant, and is even less able to do so now that prices are sky-high. Global food imports shall be worth 1.3 trillion USD in 2011, and the food import bills of the least developed countries have soared by over a third over the last year. The G20 has acknowledged that excessive reliance on food imports has left people in developing countries increasingly vulnerable to price shocks and food shortages,” De Schutter said, adding: “The WTO must now do the same”. […]

Higher tariffs, temporary import restrictions, state purchase from small-holders, active marketing boards, safety net insurance schemes, and targeted farm subsidies are increasingly acknowledged as vital measures to rehabilitate local food production capacity in developing countries.

But WTO rules leave little space for developing countries to put these measures in place. “Even if certain policies are not disallowed, they are certainly discouraged by the complexity of the rules and the threat of legal action,” De Schutter said. “Current efforts to build humanitarian food reserves in Africa must tip-toe around the WTO rulebook. This is the world turned upside down. WTO rules should revolve around the human right to adequate food, not the other way around.”

“It is a problem of principle: the WTO continues to pursue the outdated goal of increasing trade for its own sake rather than encouraging more trade only insofar as it increases human wellbeing. It therefore treats food security policies as an unwelcome deviation from this path. Instead we need an environment that encourages bold policies to improve food security.”

“If the Doha Round is to move forward, it must lift any possible constraints on policies aimed at securing the right to food: such measures should include food stock-holding that aims to reduce price volatility and ensure access to adequate food at the local level.”

1 See momagri’s article « According to a report by the CEPII, the conclusion of the Doha Round would have a negative impact on the agricultural sector in several countries » : http://momagri.fr/UK/a-look-at-the-news/According-to-a-report-by-the-CEPII-the-conclusion-of-the-Doha-Round-would-have-a-negative-impact-on-the-agricultural-sector-in-several-countries_1008.html
2 http://www.srfood.org/
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Paris, 19 June 2019