Making US trade policy serve global food security goals
By Karen Hansen-Kuhn,
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Be it at the Davos Economic Forum or the gathering of the 50 ministers of agriculture in Berlin in January, the issue of agricultural trade liberalization is at the forefront of the international scene.
Faced with new threats to food security in many developing countries, most states say it is important to revive the Doha Round negotiations at the WTO. This is what the United States are demanding.
However, as researchers recalled at the IATP (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy), U.S. policy today is contradictory: while President Barack Obama has created a program aimed at developing local agriculture in developing countries to improve their food security, at the same time, he argues for the further liberalization of agricultural trade that would result in these countries importing massive amounts of cheap products thus preventing their agriculture from developing efficiently.
Also, in her latest report, “Making US trade policy serve global food security goals”, Karen Hansen-Kuhn believes that the U.S. government must not only rethink food security objectives as a priority before discussing trade policies, but also reposition agricultural debates within the new strategic post-crisis environment.
An interesting point which not only characterises the U.S. approach, but that of most international policy makers. We recommend reading this report 1, below is the introduction.
Momagri editorial board
More than any U.S. president in history, Barack Obama has focused public attention on global hunger and the need to bolster food production by small-scale farmers in devel¬oping countries. He championed this cause at the 2009 G-8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, where he called on world leaders to commit $20 billion to address food security, promising $3.5 billion from the United States. After a series of consul-tations among various government agencies and civil society organizations, the Obama administration launched the Feed the Future initiative in May 2010. That program emphasizes the importance of small-scale farmers, especially women, in country-led programs and a multiagency “whole of govern-ment” approach to global food security.
And therein lies the rub.
While the U.S. development agenda emphasizes increasing local food production in developing countries, the trade agenda pushed in the other direction, aiming to double U.S. exports-including those of agricultural goods-in the next five years. Just as developing countries work to rebuild local agricultural systems weakened by decades of cuts in agricultural extension services, credit and other public services, they are facing increasing pressure to open their markets to U.S. goods, which could result in floods of cheap imports that undermine local food production.
Trade talks are gaining new momentum. After a two-year lull following the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in 2008, G-20 leaders have called for a resumption of the negotiations in 2011, with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy calling for completion of draft modality texts by the end of March. The U.S. is also promoting its own ambitious agenda of regional and bilat¬eral trade talks. Negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership continue to advance and to expand to even more countries in Southeast Asia. The U.S. and South Korean governments recently resolved remaining differences over market access for dairy, beef and automobiles in the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). That agreement, along with pending bilat¬eral agreements with Panama and Colombia, could be intro¬duced for Congressional approval in 2011.
The food, finance and climate crises are all evidence of how much the world has changed since the era of free trade accords began, but the U.S. agricultural trade agenda remains essentially the same as the approach first adopted in the 1990s under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Recent reports of rising food prices and riots in some countries add new urgency to the imperative to get these policies right.
U.S. trade policy must start from our goals rather than our tactics. Ending global hunger, enhancing incomes and employment, and encouraging a transition to climate friendly agriculture should be the goals of U.S. agricultural, economic and development policy. Trade policy should be a tool to support those goals rather than a loose cannon that shoots them down.
Summary of recommendations
¦ Review provisions in existing trade agreements that undermine food security and launch a process to reform them.
¦ Explicitly exempt Least Developed Countries from U.S. export-promotion goals.
¦ Work with developing countries to establish trade rules that support price bands and other mechanisms to promote stable food supplies.
¦ Support proposals at the WTO and in the negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership for Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanisms to advance food security and rural livelihoods in developing countries.
¦ Establish exceptions to investment and procurement provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other ongoing bilateral trade negotiations to protect public health and food security.
1 Full report on the ATP website : http://www.iatp.org/iatp/publications.cfm?accountID=451&refID=107901