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Africa and the WTO - the Perils of Weakening the Development Agenda

Originally published by AllAfrica on 10/09/2015

In the 2013 WTO Ministerial in Bali, India stood mostly alone as the rich countries tried to isolate the government for its stockholding and food security program. But India is far from alone in recognizing the value of public food reserves as insurance against price volatility, emergency food in the event of shortages, and stocks for anti-poverty programs.

In fact, many African countries, including Kenya, Egypt, and Zambia manage such initiatives. They would be deluding themselves to think that the WTO measures taken against India will not be used against them. Most of these countries have exceeded, or are on the verge of exceeding, the de minimis limits set by the WTO's Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), tripped up by the same loophole that has snagged India. That technicality, which artificially inflates the calculation of subsidy levels, must be resolved in Nairobi along with additional progress on outstanding agricultural issues in the long-running Doha negotiations.

To put the Doha Round in perspective, suffice it to say that even if the entire round was concluded to the satisfaction of the developing countries, it would not address any of the issues of food sovereignty that are raised by social movements in the Food and Nutrition Watch 2015, released today at FAO in Rome. It is, thus, from the perspective of social movements, a minimalist package facilitated by the WTO - an agency that they believe does not have the legitimacy to deal with issues of agriculture and food security, and which ultimately seems to favor corporations and profit interests of the most powerful States.