Farmers Call for Coherence in International Trade

CANADA - The country's dairy, poultry and egg farmers are calling for coherence in international agreements alongside farm groups in 66 countries ahead of the meeting of G20 agriculture ministers in Paris.
calendar icon 21 June 2011
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Yesterday (20 June), on the eve of the G20 ministers of Agriculture meeting in Paris, Canada's dairy, poultry and egg farmers joined a coalition of farm groups from 66 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe to endorse the Call for Coherence. The joint declaration adopted earlier that day in Brussels, Belgium by international farm group leaders calls on governments and parliaments to recognise the specificity of agriculture in international trade negotiations.

While recognising the need for fair and equitable trade rules for those products traded on world markets, farm groups in Canada and around the world feel it is critical for governments to acknowledge the importance of food security and the unique role played by agriculture and food in trade agreements. International rules must allow enough policy space for countries to meet their food security objectives.

On a conference call today with media representatives, Chicken Farmers of Canada Chairman, David Fuller said: "We are questioning whether the approach of simply opening markets – giving no consideration whatsoever to non-trade issues and how these impact farmers who produce the world's food – is really the best way forward. Better coherence is needed between any WTO agriculture agreement and those commitments WTO Member States must observe in the international treaties they've already signed on issues such as poverty, hunger, climate change and biodiversity."

As world food demand grows, the farm groups believe that food security is crucial, and that coherence is necessary between the ongoing WTO Doha Round of trade negotiations and existing international agreements on climate change, biodiversity and reducing hunger, poverty.

Marcel Groleau, Vice-President of Dairy Farmers of Canada, commented: "Regulating agricultural markets has proven useful in many countries. It is widely accepted that regulations have a legitimate role in establishing standards to protect the environment, biodiversity and climate change. To have sustainability and stability on farms, we need better market coordination, because agriculture depends so much on nature, faces great market concentration in the food distribution chain, and excessive commodity market speculation."

He added: "Around 10 per cent of food is traded internationally and food security is especially important in developing countries. Agricultural trade liberalisation must be balanced so that farmers in all parts of the world can produce food for domestic consumption in order to improve their self-sufficiency and ensure food security."

Most of all, farm groups are pressing their political leaders to take into account the following basic principles when negotiating international trade agreements:

  • all countries must have the right to produce for domestic consumption in order to improve self-sufficiency and ensure their food security, including the use of tariff measures
  • trade rules must allow for policy measures, including supply management, which promote stability of food supplies and prices;
  • special and differential treatment and capacity-building for developing countries must enable them to address the real concerns of resource-poor, vulnerable and small-scale farmers, and
  • all countries should have the right to meet the non-trade concerns of their citizens including food safety, the environment, animal welfare and needs of rural areas so as to promote sustainable agriculture and, help combat climate change and, protect biodiversity.

The Call for Coherence declaration was officially endorsed yesterday, 20 June 2011, by farm organisations representing millions of farmers around the world. Video testimonials in many languages by various signatories will be posted on YouTube for viewing and discussion [click here].

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