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全球粮食安全与营养论坛 · FSN论坛

Re: Examining the linkages between trade and food security: What is your experience?

Gérard Choplin
Gérard Choplinformer coordinator of the European Farmers CoordinationBelgium

1.       From your knowledge and experience how have trade agreements and rules affected the four dimensions of food security (availability, access, utilization, stability)?

The issue is not to oppose trade and food security, but to discuss which trade rules are decreasing or increasing food security. It is about the priorities given to agriculture and trade policies. Trade should be put at its right place, not more, not less.

The fact is that the present international trade rules (GATT agreement signed in Marrakech, 1994) have failed. They have been formatting the agriculture policies of all WTO members from the 90es. Priority was given to the “competitiveness on international markets”, as we could see for example with the evolution of the European agriculture policy. To import more (the WTO rules impose to import at least 5% of consumption of each agricultural product, even if the country has surpluses), to export more was the new trend.

Food security should be the first priority of any agriculture policy. If it relies very much on import/export, it is vulnerable and can be put in danger in case of crisis.  It is not the same to have food available coming from far away or coming from the region. The globalization of agricultural markets with the present international trade rules is working against food security because it is increasing dependency of people, regions, countries on international trade.

By putting all farmers competing on a global market, the present WTO rules put prices at the level of the lowest costs of production , or at the level of prices artificially low because of subsidies, and excludes many farmers from their own local/regional market. As we can see for example with the export of EU milk powder , chicken, grain,… ruining production capacities in Africa.

The WTO rules allow rich countries to continue their dumping: they just moved from export subsidies to direct decoupled subsidies  put in a “green” box, which is nothing else as the whitewashing of dumping.

The abandonment of supply management policies, of public grain reserves and the financiarisation of agricultural markets have increased the volatility of agricultural prices, which is destabilizing agriculture and food security. When food prices are going suddenly up as in 2008, it is dramatic for rural and urban poors.

 Indeed the WTO rules and the “Free” Trade Agreements (“F”TAs) have not only decreased food security or made it relying too much on import/export, they have decreased the capacities of the countries to develop appropriate policies for their food security.  They have decreased food sovereignty. Power has moved to international companies benefiting first of international trade and using the huge differences in production costs, labour cost, environmental costs, and taxes.             

2.      What is your knowledge and experience with creating coherence between food security measures and trade rules?  Can rights-based approaches play a role?

To create coherence between food security and trade rules, we have to change the present international trade rules and FTAs. There is no stable food security without food sovereignty. We need new trade rules based on the right of food sovereignty, which should be recognized at UNO.

Michel Buisson has developed a detailed proposal to be discussed (book in French: “conquérir la souveraineté alimentaire”

Food sovereignty will deliver other priorities to agricultural policies and give new space to agricultural policies, putting trade at its right (still important) place. Countries or regional unions of countries would have the right to define their own agriculture policies, with a ban of any form of dumping regarding third countries (export at price below the production costs of exporting country).

For achieving food security, the priority of any agriculture policy should be to feed the population first with local/regional products and no more import/export. This would also respond to the climate and energy challenges by limiting transport on long distances. Trade remains important between regions/countries with surpluses (especially for grain) and regions/countries with deficit, but also to exchange specific products. Each region has specific products to exchange with other regions. To stabilize agricultural prices, markets should be organized, with the constitution of public grain reserves.

3.      How can a food security strategy, including components that explicitly support small-scale farmers in agro-biodiverse settings, be implemented in ways that might be compatible with a global market-based approach to food security? 

I agree with JM Boussard. It is impossible in the present WTO/”F”TAs framework. CFS report 2011 on price volatility and food security, reports of Olivier De Schutter UNO, FAO A.Sarris proposals of June 2009,…..  demonstrate that the WTO trade rules of 1994 and the “liberalization “ of agriculture markets have failed to achieve food security; they have made the situation worse. And they increased other problems like climate change, biodiversity erosion, energy consumption.

We need a new approach, a new paradigm, new priorities which benefit populations instead of a few companies. Let us develop a local market-based approach to food security, keeping international trade at its right place.