OTTAWA. Canada risks failing to meet the urgent needs of poor farmers at the WTO agricultural negotiations, according to a coalition of international development and human rights organizations. “The government position as laid out today will disappoint the millions of small farmers in developing countries,” said Stuart Clark, spokesperson for the Canadian Food Security Policy Group. Canadian government representatives at a Food and Trade roundtable refused to endorse most pro-development proposals currently on the table at the WTO talks.
The Canadian Food Security Policy Group called on Canada to back the “Development Box” proposal which would allow poor countries the flexibility they need to promote food security and rural development. It would also provide them with a specific defence against EU and US abuse of current trade rules.
“Abuse of the WTO agreement by the US and EU hurts Canadian farmers as well as those in developing countries,” added Clark, who is a trade specialist at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. “There is a logical confluence of interest in righting the imbalance in the current rules.
“The current agreement claims to provide “special and differential treatment” for developing countries, but it allows the US and EU to provide massive domestic support and export subsidies to their larger farmers, driving down world prices ” with devastating consequences for the poor.
“Because poor countries have unilaterally lowered their tariffs,” said Gauri Sreenivasan of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, “subsidized exports undercut the livelihoods of small farmers. Poor countries should not have to make further concessions to defend themselves against unfair trade practices.
“The agriculture talks will have a major impact on the two-thirds of the world’s poor who live in rural areas and on world hunger. An estimated 36 million people died of hunger and hunger related illnesses last year. “Trade can help end world hunger,” said Mark Fried of Oxfam Canada, “but only if unbalanced rules are righted. Canada should stand with developing countries in the effort to ban export subsidies, regulate export credits and food aid, and end food dumping.
“The WTO agriculture talks enter the final stages this month and are expected to conclude by March 2003. The Canadian Food Security Policy Group is a coalition of international development and human rights organizations seeking to promote trade rules that protect and enhance food security in developing countries.
Members include the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), Canadian Foodgrains Bank Association, Inter Pares, Mennonite Central Committee Canada, Oxfam Canada, Partners in Rural Development, Rights & Democracy, Union des producteurs agricoles-developpement international, and World Vision Canada.
Katia Gianneschi, CCIC
613-241-7007, ext. 311
Mark Fried, Oxfam Canada
613-237-1698, ext. 231; 613-850-9723 (cell)