GENEVA (SWITZERLAND) – Civil society groups from over 30 developing and developed countries gathered in Geneva over recent days to challenge negotiators in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks on the new WTO Agriculture Agreement. The NGOs also focused their critique on CAP reform proposals due to be discussed by the EU Council on February 24/25. Today, a statement has been published at press conferences in Geneva and Brussels (the Statement is copied at the bottom of this page).

Negotiators in Geneva are currently discussing a draft WTO Agreement on Agriculture proposed by Stuart Harbinson, chair of the Agriculture Committee. Farmers from North and South, development NGOs and consumer and green groups criticise the proposal’s failure to tackle development concerns, food security and sustaining rural livelihoods.

The WTO proposal would continue to effectively legalise dumping – exporting below the cost of production. Dumping artificially lowers world prices, destroying local food production and farmers’ livelihoods. Until the causes of dumping have been tackled, developing countries need import control measures to safeguard their farming communities. In developing countries, an average of 50% of people make their living from farming and agriculture, and in some countries such as Uganda this figure rises to over 80%. The average EU member state population reliant on agriculture is 4% (the UK figure is 1%).

“The system is working against poor farmers in West Africa. Developing countries need tariff protection to safeguard the livelihoods of millions of farmers.”
Ndiogou Fall, ROPPA – West African Farmers Association

“The WTO talks continue to be driven by a ‘you liberalize, we subsidize’ approach from the EU and US. Hypocrisy and double standards still rule the day. The EU’s impressive rhetoric about a ‘Doha Development Agenda’ is sounding hollow.” Bob van Dillen, CIDSE (Catholic Aid Agencies) “European citizens have made it clear they want a sustainable and equitable farming system that provides healthy and diverse food. The EU is failing to deliver this in the WTO and in CAP reform.” Joanna Dober, Friends of the Earth Europe

“Europe speaks loudly about social responsibilities, but protects its agricultural market to the extent that world prices are deflated. We have no subsidies and are forced to remove import duties as a condition for receiving aid. We are being locked into a cycle of poverty and marginalisation.”
Fiona Black, Jamaican Dairy Herd Services


Joanna Dober, Friends of the Earth Europe, + 32 2 542 01 88,
Bob van Dillen, CIDSE +32-2-233 37 51

Friends of the Earth Europe, Cooperation Internationale pour le Developpement et la Solidarite (CIDSE), British Overseas NGOs for Development (BOND)


Statement from the international civil society hearing on the WTO agriculture agreement

Geneva, February 21st, 2003

On the eve of a crucial discussion on the world agricultural trade system, civil society groups from 30 countries gathered in Geneva to take stock of the WTO negotiations on a new Agriculture Agreement. The discussion centred on the draft text issued on 17 February by Stuart Harbinson, Chair of the Agriculture Committee.

Participants at the hearing rejected the current Harbinson draft modalities text as an acceptable basis for negotiations. Why?

  • It reveals the emptiness of the Doha Ministerial Declaration’s stated intention of placing development, food security and rural livelihoods at the heart of the Doha Round.
  • It does not change the underlying structure of the AoA, which has caused widespread hardship for farmers around the world and discourages sustainable models of agriculture.
  • Developing countries face a world in which developed countries, particularly the European Union and United States, continue to dump under priced exports on world markets. Dumping artificially lowers world prices, destroying local food production and farmers’ livelihoods.
  • The current structure of the Agreement and the Harbinson text both legalise dumping, at the same time as they erode developing countries’ only defence against dumping – tariffs and other border measures.
  • It fails to recognize the central role played by women in food production and the nutritional well-being of the family and community, as well as the particular impact of trade liberalization on women.
  • It ignores the increasing stranglehold exerted on agricultural trade by a small number of transnational corporations, which in turn depresses farmgate prices around the world.
  • The AoA continues to be driven by a ‘you liberalize, we subsidize’ approach from the EU and US, as shown by the US farm bill and the glacial pace of CAP reform.
  • It conflicts with countries’ commitments under the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, and in particular the right to food.

What participants heard from a number of agricultural negotiators, from both developed and developing countries, convinced them that the agriculture negotiations are still business as usual: the outcome determined by horse trading based on economic and political clout.

We the undersigned call on our governments to reject the current Harbinson draft modalities as an acceptable basis for negotiations. Instead, they should work to create new trade rules that:

  • Address the real source of distortions in world agricultural markets – the monopolistic power of global agri-business
  • Take food security and food sovereignty fully into account, in particular in allowing developing countries to protect their poor farmers against low world prices and to recognize the special cultural role of food in many communities
  • Allow countries to introduce import controls and tariffs on dumped agricultural products
  • Act on governments’ multilateral commitment to increase employment by promoting rural livelihoods. In particular, taking into account the needs of vulnerable groups and women, who produce the majority of the world’s food
  • Rectify the imbalances between rich and poor countries in agricultural trade

Geneva, February 21, 2003