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World Trade Organization (WTO) Members Must Respect Non-Negotiating Ministerial: OWINFS

Instead, Approve the LDC Package and Urgently Remove WTO Obstacles to Food Security post-Bali, urges “Our World Is Not For Sale” Network

Last week, WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo announced that governments had failed to reach agreement on a “Bali package” in advance of the upcoming Ministerial, December 3-6, 2013. However, negotiations have continued in an un-transparent backroom fashion. Now he is suddenly calling on governments to negotiate at Bali. However, the schedule for the meetings does not include negotiations, meaning that they would happen only on the sidelines and in “Green Rooms” without any official notice to negotiators, ensuring that many Ministers would be excluded. Likewise, many developing countries did not prepare for unplanned negotiations in Bali, leaving many delegations of developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) at a severe negotiating disadvantage.

Governments should not further negotiations on a lopsided, unfair deal on Trade Facilitation. A deal on Trade Facilitation would bind developing countries to the customs and port-of-entry policies and procedures that rich countries have implemented over many decades to their own advantage, imposing excessive regulatory, human resources, and technological burdens on developing countries. At the same time, developed countries have been unwilling to commit to providing resources for poor countries to modernize their facilities, meaning that they would have to prioritize computerizing their customs offices over their schools, and improving infrastructure at ports rather than at hospitals. The United States and its allies have tried to spin this deal as a “win-win” for developing countries. This U.S. bullying should not continue in Bali.

Civil society calls on WTO members to agree to an already-negotiated package of policies for the LDCs. While this package should have been more reflective of the original LDC proposals, which were unfortunately watered down, the package does not require further negotiations and should be adopted in Bali. The LDC package addresses historical imbalances in the WTO, and is an “early harvest” which should be adopted now, and should not be held hostage to U.S. and other rich country demands on Trade Facilitation.

WTO members should abandon the weak “Peace Clause,” which is totally inadequate as it does not include the Anti-Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM); is time-limited; and would impose onerous reporting requirments; as well as requiring that developing countries refer to their Food Security subsidies as “trade-distorting.”

Instead, work should be taken up post-Bali on the G33 proposal to remove WTO obstacles to Food Security. Unbelievably, existing WTO rules allow developed countries to massively subsidize their agriculture (to the tens or hundreds of billions annually), while only 17 developing countries are allowed to subsidize over a minimal amount. As poor farmers make up a large percentage of the “bottom billion,” removing this limit to Food Security in the WTO is the most sensible way the international community can reduce hunger, poverty, and inequality.

The United States must stop blocking discussions of Food Security in the WTO, particularly as it refuses to reduce its own trade-distorting export subsidies, including subsidies on cotton that are so damaging to many African countries. Global civil society demands that WTO members negotiate in the future, a permanent solution to remove WTO obstacles to Food Security.

OWINFS is a global network of NGOs and social movements working for a sustainable, socially just, and democratic multilateral trading system. www.ourworldisnotforsale.org