A new vision for agriculture
momagri, movement for a world agricultural organization, is a think tank chaired by Christian Pèes.
It brings together, managers from the agricultural world and important people from external perspectives,
such as health, development, strategy and defense. Its objective is to promote regulation
of agricultural markets by creating new evaluation tools, such as economic models and indicators,
and by drawing up proposals for an agricultural and international food policy.
  WTO Public Forum: “Doha is past its sell-by date”

Jacques Carles,
Executive Vice President

Who still has an interest in concluding the Doha Round? This is the question that we could ask when listening to proceedings during the WTO Public Forum held from 19th to 21st September 2011. The answer is, no one, but the WTO!

“Doha is dead” and has been for several months, but no politician has dared back this truth. The current crisis has revealed that trade liberalization alone cannot promote development and enrich the world. The budgetary, financial, monetary, economic and soon social disasters that our societies will have to face, call for other policies than those advocated by the WTO. Concerted regulatory policies, fundamental reforms and of course, the non-repetition of the mistakes made in the past.

Doha: The chronicle of a foretold failure

The discourse of Doha, “the development round” has become redundant through misleading policy. The unregulated liberalization of agricultural trade has not enabled the development of the world’s poorest over the past ten years. The myth of an “irenic” Doha Round that would trigger a mechanic of virtuous growth and development has come to an end.

Why did this happen? There are several reasons: the cycle was too ambitious, the negotiating modalities too complex, it’s references (the Uruguay Round) outdated, … and particularly, the measuring instrument: the “non distorsivity of trade”, totally inappropriate.

- Since the time when WTO mandate and the Doha Round were defined, the world has changed profoundly. The priorities of the different states have developed in proportion to the ultra rapid growth of emerging economies and the population growth in developing countries. And politicians are only beginning to glimpse the dangers of a world production weakening under the blows of an increasingly financialised market and the progressive phasing out of agricultural support policies because of unregulated liberalization.

Doha has, in a way, passed its sell-by date with both the product and the appetite with regards the product coming to expiration. If the conclusion is obvious, political courage to change direction is not. Why? Because the economic paradigms are the same as in the 80s and 90s, political choices and economic reflection have not been sufficiently updated and restructured.

-With regards agricultural negotiations, WTO proposals were based on incomplete assessment tools that did not reflect agriculture’s reality. For example, agricultural price volatility was not taken into account by the WTO’s economic models, one of the major flaws highlighted by momagri during the Summit in Hong Kong in December 2005. These models cannot reliably assess the impact of the unregulated liberalization of agricultural trade, especially because of speculation and the financialisation of markets.

-Worse, while in recent months the WTO have been brandishing the slogan that agricultural trade liberalization promotes food security, the reality of the figures on hunger and malnutrition are irrevocable. Moreover, the G20 leaders themselves, recognizing the dangers surrounding food issues have created, for the first time, an agricultural G20. And the principal objectives of this summit concern the fight against hunger in the world, the need to develop agriculture and combating agricultural price volatility.

-Finally, the economic ideology that has guided the WTO since the Doha Round, wrongly places “trade distorsivity” at the heart of the system for agricultural trade liberalization. Not only is the method of assessment questionable, but the very notion of "distorsivity" does not make sense when faced with the challenges on food and the responsibility of States concerning agricultural policy and income support policies for farmers.

It is therefore time to recognize that the criteria for trade distorsivity for improving international trade flow is reductive because it only covers 5% to 10% of world production and is dangerous to the future of food security.

Turning the page: the “Doha Blues”

Not simple, because the slogan “Doha development round”, has a noble rationality to it, attracting politicians and the media to the detriment of responsible thinking. As a consequence of this “false” promise, we are facing a form of “Doha Blues”, with nobody wanting to definitively recognise its failure. It will also be difficult to find an alternative discourse that is as attractive to the media.

For many observers, the solution can only come from outside the WTO. From the G20? Probably. The world needs a truly global governance for food and agriculture that coordinates the activities of various international institutions. This governance could emanate from the G20 and be embodied in a Food Security Council to coordinate the activities of international institutions: the FAO as a permanent operator, the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank ...

But to replace Doha, it will also be necessary to provide policy makers with new assessment tools and models adapted to an economic environment that is dominated by uncertainty and the irrationality of the players.

To turn the page from Doha, is therefore to move away from simplistic fables according to which, trade liberalization is the solution to the development of the world’s poorest and global food security.

By means of their economic model, momagri have demonstrated that the unregulated liberalization of international agricultural trade increases agricultural price volatility and destabilizes virtually all of planet’s agriculture. Instead of helping development, the instability created by this volatility, is a factor for aggravating world food insecurity: the 2008 riots are proof of this.

It is for this reason that momagri decided to build indicators and assessment tools such as the SGPA (global support for agricultural production) or OSE (Optimum Food Security Economic Efficiency) so that in future, whatever the international negotiations, decisions will be based on more concrete and rational elements. The world can no longer afford the luxury of debates that are out of touch with reality, such as those seen over the past ten years during Doha Round negotiations.

And above all, the failure of the Doha Round should be officially acknowledged in order to establish a new mandate, where the objectives for world trade are not artificially disconnected from strategic and economic realities. This is certainly the only positive outcome, instead of continuing to wallow in the endless repetition of an outdated liturgy, whose only faithful follower is its high priest, Pascal Lamy.

1 http://www.momagri.org/UK/momagri-agency/Global-Support-to-Agricultural-Production-or-Soutiens-Globaux-a-la-Production-Agricole-SGPA-Presentation-results-and-findings-for-the-United-States-and-Europe-_936.html
2 http://www.momagri.org/UK/focus-on-issues/A-new-indicator-will-soon-be-available-to-jointly-assess-a-country-s-food-security-against-the-effectiveness-of-its-economic-system-_982.html
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Paris, 10 December 2018