Open Letter to Trade Ministers in India

September 2, 2009

Dear Minister,

We, 122 organizations from many countries are writing to urge you to represent the interests of farmers, workers, consumers, women, and the environment, by rejecting the further liberalization of trade in food in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and instead, calling for policies which will achieve food security, rural development and safeguard farmers’ livelihoods through Food Sovereignty.

We urge you to not use the Ministerial-level meeting on WTO negotiations which India will host the first week in September, to push for further liberalization of agriculture. We urge you, Ministers, to reject any attempt to push through a conclusion to the Doha Round of WTO negotiations, as the current proposals will exacerbate rather than resolve the crises affecting hunger, poverty and agricultural production globally. The WTO, along with bilateral and regional “free trade” agreements replicating the same neoliberal model in agriculture promoted for three decades by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, allow agribusiness exporters in rich countries to subsidize their products and then export them into developing country markets, disadvantaging small-scale family farmers. Specifically:

*The deregulation of trade in agriculture has resulted in the abolition of commodities boards that helped manage supply, and instead replaced them with commodities markets. These highly deregulated, volatile markets expose farmers to enormous instability due to the dramatic shifts in price associated with the speculative behavior endemic to these markets, particularly in developing countries which have been pressured to sharply reduce their import tariffs.

*The global agricultural system allows rich countries to massively subsidize their agribusiness exports. When these subsidized exports flood into developing country markets, they represent unfair competition for local farmers, destroy local livelihoods, and increase hunger and poverty. The limits that do exist are routinely violated by the United States and EU. The recent Farm Bill passed by the United States does not limit these subsidies to any significant degree. The Food and Agriculture Organization found that all 102 of the developing countries that were studied experienced import surges between 1980-2003; these import surges occurred more frequently after the implementation of the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture.

*The global trade system does not allow for governments to protect and support sustainable food production for domestic consumption nor to protect farmers from predatory corporate behavior. Many developing country governments are prohibited from increasing protective tariffs, providing fertilizer or other input subsidies, or protecting certain products from global trade, by the WTO, bilateral trade agreements, or IMF and World Bank policies.
These policies, taken together, have resulted in failed global agricultural system including extremely volatile commodities markets, a lack of global access to nutritious and affordable food, an increase in hunger, and the erosion of farmers’ incomes. These policies have culminated in the global food crisis we face today, where about 30,000 people die every day of poverty-related causes, many due to malnutrition and hunger. The FAO estimates that over one billion people are now going hungry, with about 150 million more people experiencing hunger as a result of the current food crisis.

Unfortunately, proponents of further liberalization have sought to take advantage of the food crisis to actually expand, rather than reform, their failed policies. In the current agriculture negotiations in the WTO, the most powerful rich countries are demanding that developing countries further open up their markets, while refusing to reduce the subsidies they provide for agribusiness exports that wreak immense havoc on markets in developing countries.

At the same time, many developing countries are working towards protective policies including carving out farm products from tariff reductions, as well as allowing an increase in tariffs or quotas for products facing dumping – especially for certain products which are essential for food security, rural development, and farmers’ livelihoods. In the WTO, these policies, called Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SP/SSM), are advocated for by a coalition of over 46 developing countries called the G33, and are supported in these demands by an even larger group totaling over 100 developing countries. Unity amongst the G33 for a strong position on Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SP/SSM) is an essential step towards improving the global agricultural system.

Based on the failure of the current system, many farmers, fisherfolks, other food producers, consumers, scholars, and other agricultural experts have developed alternative models for global agriculture, food sovereignty, that prioritizes the cultivation of local, safe, healthy food for human sustenance, ecological social sustainability. As a first step, governments should reject the Doha Round of WTO expansion and instead support:

1. Strong protections and support for food production for domestic consumption on the national level that must be allowed for within the global trading system. Developing countries must be allowed to exempt a sufficient number of products from global trade that are essential for food security, rural development, and farmers’ livelihoods. They should also be able to maintain adequate tariff levels, and to use measures to stop or reduce imports that are having a negative impact on food security, rural development and farmers’ livelihoods.

2. A global trading system that disciplines corporate behavior, and an end to dumping. All kinds of export subsidies – direct or indirect, including export credit, export credit guarantee and export insurance, non emergency food aid in kind and, above all, all domestic subsidies benefitting to exported products which are infinitely larger than the actual subsidies at the export level – for agricultural products from developed countries must be eliminated immediately. We also specifically call for the ending rich country subsidies in cotton production that damage West African producers.

3. New regulations on the markets, such as disciplines on speculation in the commodities markets, as many African governments have proposed within the WTO. We call for a shift towards a global supply management system for those farm products that are traded internationally.

These policies, taken together, would truly start a strongly needed transformation of the global food system, and deliver important progress towards the achievement of Food Sovereignty and the reduction of global poverty, hunger and malnutrition.


International and Regional Networks
1. Action Aid International International
2. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) Asia Pacific
3. Asian Peasant Coalition Bangladesh, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
4. ATTAC Argentina, Belgium, France, Japan, Norway
5. Committee for Asian Women (CAW) Asia
6. Capitulo Centroamerica Alianza Social Continental Central America
7. Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) International
8. Focus on the Global South India, Thailand, Philippines
9. Food and Water Europe International
10. Grupo de Trabajo de Agricultura y Comercio de la Alianza Social Continental Latin America
11. Hemispheric Social Alliance Americas
12. International Gender and Trade Network (IGTN) International
13. International Grail Justice and Trade Agreements Network International
14. IUF International
15. International Presentation Association of Presentation Sisters International
16. Mesa Latinoamericana de Comercio Justo y Consumo Ético Latin America
17. Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD) Latin America
18. Plate Forme des Acteurs Non Etatiques d’Afrique Centrale (PANEAC) Latin America
19. Red Intercontinental de Promoción de la Economía Solidaria – Latinoamérica y Caribe (RIPESS LAC) Latin America and the Caribbean
20. Red Latinoamericana Mujeres Transformando la Economía (REMTE) Latin America
21. Réseau Dynamique Africaine (Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile Africaine) Central Africa
22. South Asian Network for Social & Agricultural Development (SANSAD) South Asia
23. Southeast Asian Council for Food Security & Fair Trade (SEACON) South East Asia
24. Third World Network Africa Africa
25. Women in Development Europe (WIDE) Europe
26. World March of Women International

National and Sub regional networks and organizations
27. Africa Centre for Biosafety (ACB) South Africa
28. Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU) India
29. Alianza Social Continental Capítulo Perú Peru
30. All Nepal Peasants Federation Nepal
31. Alliance of Progressive Labour (APL) Philippines
32. Alliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) Indonesia
33. Articulação de Mulheres Brasileiras Brazil
34. Asociación Chilena de Organismos No Gubernamentales ACCIÓN A.G. Chile
35. Association Citoyenne de Défense des Intérêts Collectifs (ACDIC) Cameroon
36. Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network Australia
37. Bangladesh Bhumeeheen Samitee (BBS) Bangladesh
38. Bangladesh Krishok Shangho Bangladesh
39. Bantay Bigas Philippines
40. Berne Declaration Switzerland
41. Bharatiya Krishak Samaj India
42. Bloque Popular Honduras Honduras
43. Capitulo Argentino de la PIDHDD Argentina
44. Centre for Education and Communication (CEC) India
45. Centre for Trade Policy and Development Zambia
46. Chile Sustentable Chile
47. CLADEM Paraguay Paraguay
48. Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos de Ecuador Ecuador
49. Comisión Local 0,7% PIB Spain
50. Comisión Nacional de Enlace (CNE) Costa Rica
51. Confederación Nacional Agraria Peru
52. Council of Canadians Canada
53. CRBM-Mani Tese Italy
54. Dekada ’80 Movement Philippines
55. Ditsò Costa Rica
56. Eastern and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF) Zambia
57. Ecologistas en Acción Spain
58. Economic Justice and Development Organization
(EJAD) Pakistan
59. Ecuador Decide Ecuador
60. Fair Italy
61. Foro “Corriente de Opinión Ciudadana” Argentina
62. Frente Democrático Campesino Mexico
63. Globalization Watch Hiroshima Japan
64. GM Freeze United Kingdom
65. Grupo Local de Campaña Pobreza Cero Spain
66. Grupo Red de Economía Solidaria del Perú – GRESP Peru
67. Informationsgruppe Lateinamerika (IGLA) Austria
68. Institute for Global Justice Indonesia
69. Instituto para el Comercio Equitativo y el Consumo Responsable (ICECoR) Argentina
70. Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) Kenya
71. Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Philippines
72. La Cooperativa Artística Víctor Lima Uruguay
73. La Mesa Intercooperativa de Salto Uruguay
74. La Via Campesina – Brasil Brazil
75. Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Centre Nigeria
76. Labour Research Service South Africa
77. Lismore Presentation Congregation Australia
78. Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres Perú Peru
79. Movimiento Rural Cristiano Spain
80. Movimiento Social Nicaraguense Otro Mundo es Posible Nicaragua
81. National Agricultural Workers Forum (NAWF) India
82. National Alliance of People’s Movements-NAPM India
83. National Center For Labour India
84. National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA) Philippines
85. Oakland Institute USA
86. OeIE-Kaernten Austria
87. ONG Africando Spain
88. Paz Ahora Spain
89. Peoples Network on Food Security Programs (PNFSP) Philippines
90. Plataforma Rural-Alianzas por un Mundo Rural Vivo Spain
91. Plataforma Boliviana de Derechos Humanos Bolivia
92. Plataforma Colombiana de Derechos Humanos Colombia
93. Plataforma Dhesca Brasil Brazil
94. Plataforma Peruana de Derechos Humanos Peru
95. Presentation Justice Network Ireland
96. Presentation Sisters Network India India
97. Proyecto Cultura y Solidaridad (PCyS) Spain
98. PUMALAG (Peoples Network against Liberalization of Agriculture) Philippines
99. Red de Acción Ciudadana Frente al Libre Comercio e Inversiones SINTI TECHAN El Salvador
100. Red de Semillas “Resembrando e Intercambiando” Spain
101. Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC) Mexico
102. Red Peruana de Comercio Justo y Consumo Ético Peru
103. Resistance and Solidarity against Agrochemical TNCs (RESIST Network) Philippines
104. SEARCH Foundation Australia
105. Serikat Petani Indonesia Indonesia
106. SETEM-Catalunya Spain
107. Sisters of the Presentation Congregation of Newfoundland and Labrador Canada
108. Soldepaz.Pachakuti Spain
109. Solidarité France
110. South African Municipal Workers’ Union South Africa
111. Southern and Eastern Africa Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda and Zimbabwe
112. Surplus People Project South Africa
113. Taiwan NGOs Association for International Affairs Taiwan
114. Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) Philippines
115. Trade Strategy Group South Africa
116. Transnational Institute (TNI) The Netherlands
117. The Development Fund Norway
118. War on Want United Kingdom
119. World Development Movement United Kingdom
120. World Economy, Ecology and Development (WEED) Germany
121. Worldview-The Gambia Gambia
122. WTO Vyathiredha Vedika (Platform Against WTO) India

One thought on “Open Letter to Trade Ministers in India

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