Stop the Doha Rounda, No to further trade liberalization in agriculture! Geto WTO out of agriculture and fisheries!

Original Publication Date: 
15 December, 2005

We, the social movements, farmers' and fisherfolks' organizations, women's movements, and non-government organizations gathered here in HK from December 14-15, 2005, on the occasion of the WTO 6th Ministerial meeting, condemn in the strongest terms WTO's agenda to further liberalize our agriculture markets at the expense of our livelihood and food security. The trade liberalization program pushed by the WTO in the last ten years has already severely weakened protection of domestic sectors strategic to employment generation, food security and national development. The periodic import surges that followed the dismantling of protective border measures in developing countries have invariably led to significant declines in their domestic food production, collapse of traditional rural livelihoods, rising unemployment and massive rural-urban migration. Women peasants and fishers'
crucial role in food security has been increasingly eroded as they lose control of agriculture and fisheries production, distribution and consumption. The impact has been more damaging on poorer countries particularly on low income and food deficit countries as their agriculture, which provides the main source of livelihood and sustenance to as much as 80 percent of their population has stagnated. In consequence, many of these countries have been transformed into net food importers and are now facing rising food import bills, which clearly are raising their trade deficits to unsustainable levels further worsening their precarious external debt situation. Thus a new round of negotiations that will further liberalize agriculture and remove remaining policy flexibility of developing countries will surely be more disastrous to the poor.

The WTO MC6 targets to salvage the Doha round that has been seriously hampered by the collapse of the fifth ministerial talks last September 2003 owing to the rising dissent of developing countries over WTO's highly skewed trade rules. But behind the Doha round's development rhetorics, the WTO's main focus is merely that of achieving more aggressive liberalization not only in the agriculture markets but in the manufacturing and service sector of developing countries. The August framework of agreement has made sure that trade negotiations will center on WTO's main liberalizing agenda.

Thus, it is of no surprise that the draft Ministerial text, while referring to the so-called "development" objectives of Doha offers nothing new.

Besides proposing mechanisms that are meant in the first place to win over developing countries, particularly the LDCs' support to the Doha round, such as the Aid for Trade and other financial assistance programs, the same tried formula of more market access in industrial and agriculture goods as well as services permeates the text. In agriculture, the main agenda remains that of expanding export opportunities of rich agriculture producers and giant TNCs, while ensuring that developed countries' escalating domestic support remain protected, again to the detriment of small farmers in the developing countries whose livelihoods are increasingly threatened by agriculture dumping of the North. In others, the text contains more ambitious proposals to further liberalize trade in industrial goods and services through a deep tariff-cutting Swiss formula in industrial goods and setting numerical targets and qualitative objectives for liberalizing the services sector.

Meanwhile, in the agriculture negotiations, developing countries' proposals to take into account their development concerns through the concepts of Special Products and the Special Safeguard Measures have received minimal treatment, even as proposals of major players like the US and the EU for enhanced market access have been given more clarity and priority. Moreover, the proposals of both the US and EU to cut down domestic spending on agriculture have been made to appear as if they are allowing trade discipline when in fact, their proposed cuts would hardly affect their current levels of subsidies since the reduction are to be made only on their permitted levels of spending. Worse, current proposals to redefine or re-categorize domestic subsidies would allow developed countries to even increase their trade-distorting support.

Given this present trend, the Doha round is bound to fail in addressing the more fundamental imbalances in the existing Agriculture Agreement and even in closing the gaping lack of mechanisms to operationalize and make effective the Special and Differential Treatment for developing countries.
Worse, with the conclusion of the Doha round the existing structural inequities in agriculture trade owing to dumping, rising trade-distorting subsidies and increasing market concentration will be further entrenched.

But while the current stalemate in the agriculture negotiations may offer a brake in the rush towards trade intensification, developed countries led by the US and the EU have been exerting increasing pressure on developing countries to support the WTO's globalist project through pledges of aid and duty-free quota-free market access designed to win over some and break whatever unified position developing countries and LDCs have. The EU has also been particularly vocal in linking improvements in the agriculture negotiations to liberalization commitments of developing countries in NAMA and services.

We condemn the increasing manipulation employed by developed countries to strike out progress in the negotiations in all three areas: agriculture, nonagricultural market access and services. We recognize that achieving any agreement on the MC6 that will push for the successful conclusion of the Doha Round in 2006 will only result to more destruction of small farmer's livelihoods, displacement of rural communities, deepening poverty and intensification of class as well as gender inequalities.

We also view with alarm the involvement of leading G20 figures in the Five Interested Parties (FIPs), composed of the US, EU, Japan, India and Brazil. While it is not surprising since most developing country governments in fact are known to have represented more and stood for the interests of their agribusiness elite, the participation of these countries in crafting a forced consensus will seriously undermine developing countries' negotiating position.

We call on developing countries to reject any agreements that will impose more market opening at the expense of their own peasants, small farmers and independent producers. We urge them to strengthen their negotiating position to exempt developing countries' agriculture products from further liberalization on the basis of food security, livelihood security and rural development by going beyond their existing proposals on SP and SSM. We exhort them to adopt stronger trade measures and instruments that could effectively provide protection and support to their small farmers and address debilitating import surges such as imposing import controls or quantitative restrictions, price band mechanisms and raising agriculture tariffs beyond their WTO bound rates. It is high time too that they should take as their negotiating standpoint the demands of their small farmers and poor peasants for greater agriculture protection and increased domestic support and subsidies, instead of bowing to and supporting again WTO's trade intensification agenda that benefits merely their domestic elite and transnational agribusiness interests.

We will work to intensify our education and information campaign as well as our mobilization activities during the 6th Ministerial meeting and will cooperate and work with other movements to unmask the development fa