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