Developed world must help poor
Farmers in the developed world could be doing more to help improve production in developing nations, an international farming leader said on Thursday as talks by World Trade Organization ministers appeared to be stalling on issues of food security and farm subsidies.
World Farmers’ Organization board member Bruce Wills said the biggest losers of a failure to reach a global trade agreement at the WTO Ministerial Conference underway in Bali would be developing and least-developed countries, “and nobody wants that”.
Failure to reach a multilateral agreement could see developing nations locked out of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, such as the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership currently being negotiated.
“The worry I have with these bilaterals and most of these big multilaterals is that many of the developing countries aren’t involved,” Wills told Xinhua News Agency.
He said he could understand India’s insistence on maintaining its food security and government purchase programs, but it did fail to alleviate his concerns that one very large country posed a major obstacle to a multilateral agreement.
“I think politics is getting in the way of sensible longterm economic planning, but I guess I have to respect that they are a large democracy, and they’ve got an election in 12 months’ time. There are many hundreds of millions of Indian farmers so I can understand where they’re coming from,” said Wills.
Chances for success in Bali have increasingly centered on India’s position on food security. India has rejected proposed restrictions on subsidizing foodstuffs on Wednesday on the grounds that the WTO requirement limiting subsidies to no more than 10 percent of agricultural production could threaten its efforts to provide cheap food for its millions of poor.
The world has also looked to developed countries such as Japan, which Wills said had “one of the most protected farming environments on the planet” to open up their markets, too.
“I think people understand that some of these very expensive cumbersome supports for farmers have become unaffordable,” said Wills.
While progress on reducing agricultural tariffs appeared unachievable in Bali, the World Farmers’ Organization believed tariffs were the greatest obstacle to agricultural development in developing countries, he said.
“We worry about how we’re going to feed another 2 billion people in under 40 years’ time,” said Wills.
“We all have an obligation and responsibility to ensure that we don’t have starving people in the world, that we help each other with agricultural growth and food.”