16 December 2017

Africa: WTO Meet Fails to Set Limit On Food Subsidies

The 11th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina ended last week with no legally binding outcome on agriculture and fisheries subsidies, which developing countries were lobbying for.

Developed countries led by the US declined to limit the agricultural subsidies that developed nations give, which distort markets, put farmers at a disadvantage and hamper efforts to end hunger and achieve food security.

The US refused to make a decision on the food subsidy issue, making it difficult for developing countries to secure a better deal for food security programmes.

The farm subsidies given by developed countries such as the US, EU and Canada are said to amount to $160 billion, which is more than 90 per cent of the global export entitlements resulting in a major imbalance in agriculture trade.

This practice fails to limit public procurement of food grains such as wheat and rice to within 10 per cent of value of the crop as mandated by the WTO.

WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said members needed to do some "real soul searching" about the way forward and realise they cannot get everything they want.

Since the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi failed to get consensus on the future of the Doha Development Agenda, developing countries maintained their stand that members first deal with the issues already being negotiated before taking on new ones.

Countries were also unable to take a step toward prohibiting harmful fisheries subsidies in time to meet the 2020 deadline for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6.

This means that subsidised overfishing and illegal fishing, which threatens the health of fish stocks and the livelihoods of millions of people, will continue until a comprehensive and binding agreement by WTO members is reached.


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