Day 4: Indian People's Campaign Against WTO demanding a paradigm shift from global trade regime Print E-mail
New Delhi --  Monday, November 13,  2006

RURAL ECONOMY

Social forum reviews WTO impact on global farm crisis

ASHOK B SHARMA 


NEW DELHI, NOV 12:  Farmers’ distress and adverse impact of the present global trade regime on agriculture in the developing countries were among the major issues deliberated at the 5-day meeting of the India Social Forum (ISF) in New Delhi.
 
Negotiations on agriculture at the WTO has been a contentious issue. The suspension of the Doha Development Round of negotiations in July, this year was primarily due to agriculture as the major trading partners - the EU and the US - failed to narrow down their differences on the issue of ensuring fair trading practices by reducing the protection to their farm sector and opening up of their markets.
 
The derailment of the Cancun negotiations in 2003, was occasioned by the opposition of a large number of developing countries to the introduction of Singapore issues (rules on competition policy, investment, trade facilitation and government procurement). But the confrontation had begun with ganging up of developing and the least developed countries on the issue of the proposed farm negotiations. Agriculture, therefore, continues to be the central issue in determining the fate of not only the Doha Development Round but also of WTO.
 
Negotiations on agriculture has united the South against the North said the former India’s representative to GATT, SP Shukla. Shukla, who retired as the country's finance secretary, is now the convenor of Indian People’s Campaign Against WTO (IPCAWTO).
 
Apart from several civil society organisations, there was a good participation by a number of farmers' organisations like Bharat Krishak Samaj, Shetkari Sangathan and International Collective in Support of Fishworkers. Farmers' leaders raised the issue of unabted rates in peasant suicides and adverse impact of the market economy and unfair global trade practices.
 
It has suggested to the Indian government to take opportunity provided by the present collapse of the negotiations to harden its stand. It said that India should insist on the right to impose quantitative restrictions on imports of agricultural products. And demand exclusion of forestry, fishery and mining from non-agricultural market access category in view of the livelihood implications for the vulnerable sections .
 
It also said that India should not accept universal bindings and deep tariff cuts on industrial goods and should drastically revise its offers in the GATS negotiations and defeat the moves of the developed countries to circumscribe the area of domestic regulations. India should also take steps to revive the demand for the review of TRIPS to make it consistent with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and insist on general public licence in software and biotechnology.
 
ICPAWTO suggested that India take the initiative for a grouping of the Third World countries for formulating and agreement on trade and co-operation in agriculture, which would mark a paradigm shift from the present WTO agenda. It alleged that the present WTO agenda being biased in favour of temperate zone, mechanized largescale agri-business driven trade-oriented intensive farming. The new paradigm shift should be for ensuring peasant-centric, food sovereignty and livelihood security farming.
 
Shukla said, “An agrarian crisis is already gripping the Third World. If trade majors coerce the resumption of the suspended talks through some cosmetic moves in agriculture to take on board Brazil and India, the crisis will only deepen, the political and social consequences of which are incalculable. Even those governments in the Third World that would seek comfort in some inadequate and ineffective caveats like special products and special safeguard mechanisms will eventually find the ground swell of unmanageable peasant discontent.”