“It is urgent to put international agricultural trade back in its rightful place, no more, no less”

Lat 13e ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), in Abu Dhabi from February 26 to 29, took place amid general indifference, even though it could have been an opportunity to review current trade rules agricultural international, destructive of the agricultures of the North and the South.

Gone are the days of the WTO conference in Seattle in 1999, when the world’s media focused their spotlight on the battle over international trade rules, in the conference and in the streets. Today, while the issue of trade agreements rightly ignites the countryside, we forget that agricultural policies around the world were formatted by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) of 1993, signed in Marrakech in April 1994, thirty years ago.

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The 1992 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union (EU), decided in parallel with the GATT negotiations underway since 1986, profoundly transformed farmers’ income conditions. We have moved from regulating European agricultural prices to putting all the world’s agriculture in competition, faced with fluctuating international market prices, subject to speculation and the natural and geostrategic hazards of this or that part of the world. The single agricultural market has become a global market, the playground of large international trading companies.

Deadly price fluctuations

The 1994 rules are still in force and are binding on states or unions like the EU. However, after thirty years, we see that they are destroying the peasantries of the North and the South and ruining the environment, health and climate by favoring industrialized agriculture and prioritizing export/import rather than regional supply.

The European Union, as the world’s leading agricultural and food exporter and one of the leading importers – which makes it a key player – bears a heavy responsibility for the continuation of these harmful rules. However, despite the thousands of farmers demonstrating in almost all member states to change the rules for forming their income, the EU will arrive in Abu Dhabi without a major proposal.

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It is true that the WTO has been broken down since the 2000s, with all negotiations having failed between the major agricultural powers, those who write the rules. Take the example of public stocks of basic necessities such as cereals. India is calling for changes to the current rules, which prohibit public financing of these stocks. However, this would greatly reduce speculation and large price fluctuations, which are deadly for farmers. But the EU and the United States refused, despite the example given by the Russian war in Ukraine, which caused the price of cereals to soar even though the world harvest had never been so abundant: outside of China , which considers itself powerful enough – like the United States – to play with the rules, no one had stocks, and especially not the EU!

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