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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec13/03)
2 December 2013
Third World Network  

US groups urge USTR to support food security proposal
Published in SUNS #7706 Thursday 28 November 2013
 
Geneva, 27 Nov (Kanaga Raja) -- Some 38 civil society organisations and other groups from the United States have sent a letter to USTR Mike Froman and US WTO Ambassador Michael Punke, expressing dismay at the US opposition to proposals made by developing countries at the WTO to address their food security objectives, including reducing volatility in food prices and supplies.
 
In their letter dated 26 November 2013, they urged Froman to support the G-33's proposal to allow for greater public spending to ensure more stable food supplies and prices.
 
Among the groups signing the letter are ActionAid USA, Center for Food Safety, Family Farm Defenders, National Farmers Union, Oakland Institute, Food First, Friends of the Earth USA, Global Exchange, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, International Forum on Globalisation, Just Foreign Policy, Oxfam America, Rainforest Action Network and Washington Fair Trade Coalition.
 
"Food prices have been extremely volatile in recent years. This has been harmful to farmers in the global North and South. We continue to call for the establishment of grain reserves to dampen that volatility and advance fair prices for farmers everywhere," the groups said in their letter.
 
They noted that grain reserves are neither simple nor cheap to operate. "Yet the alternatives are worse. The lack of insurance against market failure cost enormous sums of money in emergency assistance, money the international community has to pay. The lack of provision for instability also costs lives - lives lost to hunger as an immediate consequence, and lives blighted for several generations by the effects of malnutrition on fetal development."
 
International markets serve those with the greatest purchasing power. This makes market mechanisms alone inadequate from the perspective of those whose purchasing power to secure food for their families is eclipsed by other demands on food systems, including the demands that generate significant food waste, as well as the demand for feed and fuel.
 
The US government has intervened through both its agriculture and its social welfare programs for over 100 years in recognition of market failures that need correction.
 
"Yet our administration's trade policy ignores our domestic experience. For instance, while many in Congress are fighting to retain public funding levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at home, you are seeking to undermine policy space for developing countries to fulfil their own food security objectives with far fewer resources than are available in the United States," said the groups.
 
Many of the poor in developing countries are often also small scale agricultural producers, they noted.
 
"Contrary to the letter sent to you by US commodity groups and agribusiness interests on October 24, we, the many US farm, faith-based and non-governmental organizations working on agriculture, food security, nutrition, health and economic justice acknowledge that the current agriculture rules in the WTO (including domestic support) are rigged to support big agribusiness."
 
The groups added: "We do all countries a disservice when we promote only commercial export interests, ignoring the real political (and moral) imperative that governments are responsible for their citizens' welfare, including their right to adequate and affordable food and fair prices to agriculture producers."
 
The G33 food security proposal is an important first step in the re-framing of global trade rules to promote more equitable and stable markets, especially for countries that face huge food security challenges, they said.
 
"The US proposal for a ‘Peace Clause' to suspend potential challenges to those efforts at the WTO is an unfair and inadequate response to a sensible proposal to explore new options to improve stability in national and global markets. We support the G33 proposal and call on the US government to do the same."

 


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