De­vel­oped world must help poor

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By XIN­HUA in Bali, In­done­sia

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.”

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