for policy instruments to improve food security
Published in SUNS #8719 dated 11 July 2018
Geneva, 10 Jul (D. Ravi Kanth) - Members of the G33 farm coalition
have upped the ante for addressing "policy instruments to improve
food security, livelihood security and rural development" at
the World Trade Organization because of "severe food insecurity"
in most developing countries during the past several years, trade
envoys told SUNS.
In a proposal entitled, "Reaffirming Multilateralism and Development
for MC 12," Indonesia, which coordinates the G33 coalition of
developing and poorest countries, said their small-scale producers
are facing the worst livelihood crisis because of the continued short-term
price volatility in agriculture.
The two-page proposal submitted to the Doha negotiating committee
on agriculture on 5 July has listed the unaccomplished reforms that
are much needed now for coming to grips with the continued "inequities
and imbalances in the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (AoA)."
The small-scale farmers in developing and poorest countries who survive
on agriculture for their livelihood urgently need an "open, transparent
but also more importantly, a development oriented trading system that
provides a level-playing field," the G33 said.
Expressing sharp disappointment at "the lack of consensus"
during the WTO's eleventh ministerial conference (MC11) in Buenos
Aires last year, the G33 said developing countries are hindered by
the failure to address issues related to "livelihood security,
food security and rural development."
At MC11 in Buenos Aires last year, the United States single-handedly
blocked the chair's draft negotiating text at the meeting on the ground
that it cannot agree to any outcome on the permanent solution for
public stockholding programs for food security.
"The US came to the Buenos Aires meeting with a decision to block
the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security
because of its new farm bill," said a trade minister who participated
in the green room convened by the facilitator Ms Amina Mohamed from
The WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo too sided with the US in
ensuring there was no progress on the mandated issues of permanent
solution for public stockholding programs for food security and further
work on the special safeguard mechanism for developing countries,
said an African trade minister, who asked not to be quoted.
"The US and the director-general played their part in blocking
progress on the two vital issues at Buenos Aires," the trade
At one point during the Buenos Aires meeting, the facilitator threatened
the director-general in a closed-door meeting that she will take the
next flight if the DG continued to play an inimical role, the minister
Over the last 17 years of the Doha agriculture negotiations, the G33
steadfastly called for "meaningful Special Products (SP), an
accessible and effective Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) and a permanent
solution on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes (PSH)."
The G33 said these three policy instruments - SPs for ensuring that
certain products are completely exempted from any commitments, the
PSH to ensure that market price support programs do not come into
play for providing major food grains at affordable prices, and special
safeguard mechanism to enable developing countries to face unforeseen
surges in imports of vital agricultural commodities, especially cereals
- are an imperative for "developing Members to deal with challenges,
particularly in sustaining investments in agriculture for food security,
livelihood security and rural development, as well as addressing the
destabilizing and crippling effects of import surges and downward
price swings in the increasingly volatile global agricultural markets."
Given hundreds of millions of small-scale agricultural producers,
"which represent the majority of the food insecure population
in developing Members," there is an urgent need to kick-start
the negotiations so as to ensure an outcome at the WTO's 12th ministerial
meeting next year, the G33 pointed out.
"Based on data derived from FAO Statistics," the G33 maintained
that 22.3% of the population in developing countries are engaged in
agriculture as compared with 4.8% in developed countries.
Moreover, "the average size of agriculture holdings in some developing
Members are miniscule, 2.2 hectares in Asia and 2.92 hectares in Africa,
while for some developed Members the number is far beyond that, 349
hectares in Canada, 186.95 hectares in the United States, and 27.27
hectares in the European Union," the G33 maintained.
Further, data prepared by several international agencies suggest that
"small-scale farmers, with equal to or less than two hectares
of landholdings, provide up to 80% of the food supply in some developing
regions and represent 85% of the world population active in agriculture;
three out of four of the world's extreme poor live in rural areas."
Therefore, it is essential to increase the production and income of
small-scale producers so as to improve access to food among the most
vulnerable and improve supply for local and domestic markets.
"Sustaining small-scale agriculture is, therefore, critical for
maintaining food security in developing country Members, as it is
the source of income for the overwhelming majority of the poor on
the one hand, and the main source of food supply, on the other,"
the G33 argued.
"As rural households in developing Members are both producers
and purchasers of agricultural products, the impacts of price volatility
for them are complex," the G33 maintained.
In the face of continued threat from heavily subsidized farm producers,
the small-scale and resource-poor farmers remain vulnerable to both
price collapses and dramatic price surges.
Further, the continued "imbalances and inequities inherited from
the Uruguay Round in favour of developed countries" pose an existential
threat for small farmers in developing countries.
The developed countries continue to enjoy a plethora of Uruguay Round
entitlements such as high AMS (aggregate measurement of support or
most trade-distorting amber box subsidies) beyond de minimis with
no product specific caps, very high levels of total per capita domestic
support, non-transparent and complex TRQs (tariff-rate quotas) and
non-ad valorem tariff systems including tariff peaks and escalation,
and the highest entitlements to the Special Safeguard Provisions (SSG),
the G33 pointed out.
Consequently, the so-called high tariffs for agriculture in developing
countries have "not been able to effectively safeguard the interests
of small-scale farmers from periodic import surges and almost permanent
market distortions in global agriculture trade."
"The prevalence of severe food insecurity has increased in most
developing regions between 2014 and 2016, including in Latin America,
West Asia and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and East and Southeast
Asia," the G33 maintained.
Even "the FAO has projected that during the next decade many
developing Members will significantly increase their dependency on
agricultural imports, assuming current agricultural policies remain
in place," the G33 pointed out.
At a time when negotiations for eliminating fisheries subsidies particularly
for IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing are being advanced
under the goal 14.6 of the United Nations Sustainable Development
Goals, the G33 said the policy instruments - such as the special products,
the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security,
and the special safeguard mechanism for developing countries - will
"also go towards supporting SDG 1 for eradicating poverty, SDG
2 for zero hunger and SDG 17 for promoting a universal, rules-based,
open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system
under the World Trade Organization, including through the conclusion
of negotiations under its Doha Development Agenda."
Against this backdrop, the WTO members must "collectively address
those challenges and put the WTO on a steady, meaningful path forward,"
the G33 maintained.
The G33 said it wants to reinvigorate "the negotiations in the
WTO and using this multilateral forum to develop trade rules that
would be beneficial to all its Members."
It said "work to address imbalances and inequities must be continued
based on Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture, and reinforced
by the Doha Development Agenda which puts "development"
and special and differential treatment (S&DT) for all developing
Members at its core."
"Until the same is achieved, we firmly believe that the negotiations
must continue, building on the various Ministerial decisions/declarations
and the development framework we have agreed since 2001," the
It reminded developed countries that there "was a clear mandate
to arrive and adopt a permanent solution on PSH by 2017. Unfortunately,
the mandate could not be fulfilled at MC11."
Therefore, the WTO members must "redouble" their efforts
towards a permanent solution for public stockholding programs for
food security, which would facilitate the achievement of a number
of SDG goals concerning "the elimination of poverty, malnourishment
and hunger to which we are all committed."
The G33 called on WTO members to "constructively and meaningfully
engage on these two important issues with a view to delivering outcomes
by MC12 (the WTO's 12th ministerial conference)".
In turn, this will send a strong signal for strengthening "the
negotiating arm of the WTO continues to remain in business."
In conclusion, the G33 said that it is "willing to engage constructively
and contribute to a credible and balanced outcome, which withstands
the test of development at MC12 and beyond."