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Change stance toward WTO trade talks

Akahata editorial


Serious food shortages and price rises are plaguing the world, in particular countries in the global South, and this can largely be attributed to the World Trade Organizationfs trade liberalization policies favoring multinational corporations as well as exporting countries that are destroying agriculture systems that should ensure a stable food supply in every country.


The need now is to overhaul the WTO Agriculture Agreement that was concluded on the premise that there was overproduction in agriculture, and to establish rules of national food sovereignty in agriculture. 


Negotiations undermining agriculture


Calling for the Doha Round of WTO talks to be concluded by the end of 2008, the WTO is accelerating negotiations to force countries to open their markets to more foreign products. In the agriculture talks, Chair Crawford Falconer is expected to present in the near future a second revision of his proposal on targets for achieving the objectives of negotiations (gmodalitiesh), including reduction of tariffs and agricultural subsidies. If the proposed modalities are accepted at the coming ministerial talks, tariff cuts on individual items will be negotiated and then a final agreement will be concluded.


One of the main aims of the agriculture talks is to preclude and reduce as much as possible price support and price shortfall support mechanisms as trade distortions, although they are often aimed at helping family farmers to make efforts to support their farming and living conditions, and increase food production.


In order to force countries to further open their markets, discussion on ways to deal with important items is under way, including tariffs cuts, the setting of upper limits on tariffs, and an increase in importation of minimum access volumes.


In Japan, successive Liberal Democratic Party governments have accepted the WTO Agriculture Agreement. It has increased the importation of minimum access volumes of rice, and the tariffication of rice, while cutting domestic support for agriculture. As a result, Japanfs self-sufficiency rate in food declined to 39 percent.


The policy based on the idea that gfood can be importedh is failing. The task now is for Japan to change its farm policy into one of drastically increasing the self-sufficiency rate in food. This is why the Japanese Communist Party proposal for the grevitalization of Japanese agricultureh has gained broad support from farmers and the general public.


If Japan is to revitalize its agriculture, it should seek an overhaul of the WTO Agricultural Agreement instead of resorting to further trade liberalization. This is not just a problem that concerns Japan.


The WTO agriculture talks are under severe international criticism because they are in disregard of the concept of national food sovereignty. The Doha Round began in 2001 and the 2003 WTO Ministerial in Cancun, Mexico, failed to reach an agreement. There was suspension of talks between July 2006 and January 2007.


Recently, the worldfs food problem has changed from goverproductionh to gshortage,h and this has changed the precondition of the WTO talks. This is made clear by the fact that rice exporters have begun restricting rice exports.


Increasing criticism of WTO


International criticism of the WTO is further growing. A special report on the right to food submitted last January to the UN Human Right Council directed its criticism to the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank for undermining the right of nations to meet their food needs.


The Japanese government must end its defensive posture vis-?-vis WTO negotiations. In order to defend and reconstruct Japanfs agriculture, it should cooperate with other countries to change the way the WTO talks are held.                                                                    - Akahata, May 15, 2008


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