Vol. 4 Num 76 Mon. August 11, 2003  

Intensify pressure on rich nations to cut farm subsidy
Action Aid urges govt ahead of Cancun meet

As Cancun WTO meeting nears an international NGO urged Bangladesh to intensify pressure on rich nations to cut agriculture subsidy.

As the leader of the least developed countries (LDCs) Bangladesh should put pressure on developed countries to curtail farm subsidy, Action Aid Bangladesh, local chapter of UK-based NGO, said in its recommendations ahead of the 5th September 10-14 ministerial conference in Cancun, Mexico.

Ziaul Hoque Mukta, associate coordinator, Policy Support Unit of Action Aid Bangladesh, released the recommendations yesterday at a press conference in Dhaka.

He said rich countries are dillydallying on farm subsidy cut decision, though it was high on agenda in many WTO talks.

Action Aid Bangladesh said the farm subsidy is destroying level playing field among farmers of rich and poor countries. The huge subsidy does not allow agri-products of poor countries to enter international market, it added.

The rich countries take advantage of the subsidy to dump products in poor countries forcing poor farmers to become marginalised, the NGO said.

Mukta said the recommendations will be forwarded to all Bangladeshi delegates, all participants from LDCs and rich countries, politicians, trade union leaders and journalists to increase awareness and gather support in favour of the interests of poor nations.

Of the 48 LDCs, 28 are member of WTO. Among the LDCs, 19 nations depend on food imports. When rich countries will remove subsidy on agriculture sector, there may be a shortage of food in those importing countries as surplus production in rich countries would be minimal. Action Aid suggested to create a revolving fund in WTO to assist the food importing countries.

Mentioning the issues of Cancun meet like-- transparency in government procurement, trade facilitation, investment and competition, Action Aid recommended LDCs should not sign any fresh agreement until previous agreements are reviewed.

On General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Action Aid said Bangladesh and other poor countries should not sign any agreement under GATS in bilateral front. Agreements under GATS must be signed through multilateral negotiations, it said.

About patents of medicines and seeds under Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Action Aid said unless TRIPS is reviewed it would play havoc with manufacturers in poor countries. The world food sector would come under grip of few multinational companies and farmers would lose their right on seeds if the TRIPS is not reviewed, it warned.