Global Civil Society urges Gita Wirjawan to pursue G33 Food Security Proposal

Original Publication Date: 
4 December, 2013

To

Mr. Gita Wirjawan,

The Hon’ble Trade Minister,

Government of Indonesia

December 4, 2013

 Dear Mr. Wirjawan, 

We, as members of global civil society, call upon you to pay urgent attention to the matter oof food security across developing countries and urge you to pursue, as the leader of the the G-33, a permanent solution to the proposal on food security tabled by this group. 

As you know, billions in developing countries across the world today face poverty, hunger and malnutrition. It is important for governments to secure the necessary policy space to provide food to their needy population. For this, they must focus on strenthening both production and distribution of food, and in a vast majority of cases, provide this support through the public stockholding of food. Enabling farmers to earn their livelihoods through food production, especially small and marginal farmers, across developing countries is a key ingredient of this policy prescription. Along with the direct goal of poverty reduction, this must form the core development agenda of a developing and least developed country. 

However the lopsided WTO rules do not allow developing countries to give such subsidies beyond a very meagre 10% of production, in sharp contrast to the huge domestic subsidies given by developed cuntries. As you already know, the G-33 under Indonesia’s leadership tabled the proposal on food security and asked that such subsidies be allowed to be given without limit by placing these in the Green Box. Needless to say this limitation on essential subsidies to producers is a huge challenge for several LDCs and most G-33 members, including Indonesia which covers15 million households in its food programme providing for 60 million people on an average. 

However, the USA has made a mockery of this proposal by refusing to discuss the permanent solution, nor did it allow discussion on the subsequent elements proposed by the G-33 i.e. on reference price  being shifted to current market prices and adjustments for inflation. Talks therefore were brought down to the Peace Clause that offers a temporary repreive  from disputes initiated by other membr states. 

In this context, we believe that the Peace Clause which is on the table is grossly inadequate as it is time bound and does not ensure a permanent solution. It is also burdened with severe conditions and transparency commitments, much above those that developed countries have to fulfill for the Green Box. Further it does not cover the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailng Measures (ASCM) and so, in effect does not give the users the protection it claims to provide. It extends only to a few crops and cannot be extended. 

Under these conditions, we believe strongly that such a Peace Clause will do the G-33 more harm than good as they will be bound up in onerous conditions but will not be free from disputes. Countries therefore should be free to say no to such a worthless Peace Clause. This does not mean that developing countries are collapsing the talks, it is the refusal by developed countries such as the USA, to address historical inequities in subsidies that has brought us to this situation. 

Therefore, we call upon you urgently to respond to the needs of the G-33, and ensure that food security is not violated across the developing and least developed world. The only option for the WTO community is to allow a permanent solution and a Peace Clause that automatically leads to this permanent solution  can be the only choice. The G-33 needs to take a strong and united position upholding the demads by countries such as India. It is an issue for all countries, since by the ancient rules of subsidy calculation based on 1986-88 referene prices, most countries will breach the allowed subsidy limit very soon, if they are not breaching it already. 

We, from Our World is Not for Sale, a civil society network of more than 200 development oganisations including farmers’ groups, trade unions, mass movements and NGOs, call upon you in great distress. We also want to draw your attention to a letter (attached) signed by 303 organisations and individuals which has called upon the WTO D-G and member states to reject such a Peace Clause and seriously pursue the permanent solution. 

We also seek an appointment with you so that we can share our concerns with you in more detail. 

We want to underline that securing an outcome at Bali is not enough. Indonesia will be known for posterity if it can ensure that the Bali Ministerial has a just outcome that protects the world’s poor and hungry. Let the Doha Round live up to its name at long last. 

With best wishes, 

Deborah James

Our World is Not For Sale (OWINFS)

E-mail: djames(at)cepr.net

Mob: +62 822 3660 5224 

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

 

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