Mexican Producer Groups Say Cancun Meetings Brought Needed Attention to Agricultural Subsidies by Rich Nations

Article excerpt

Mexican producer organizations are viewing the recently concluded summit of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Cancun as a general success because developing nations were able to bring attention to excessive agricultural subsidies employed by the rich nations. Mexico was a member of the Group of 21 (G-21), a coalition led by Brazil, India, and China, that diverted the spotlight to the unfair farm subsidies. The overwhelming attention to this issue derailed the goal of developing nations to use the Cancun meetings to make progress on an agreement to phase out subsidies by 2005, a goal that now appears in jeopardy (see NotiCen, 2003-09-18).

The optimism expressed by many organizations was guarded, however, because they had hoped for some breakthrough agreement that would have led to dismantling agricultural subsidies. "Unfortunately, the result is not all that favorable," said Armando Paredes Arroyo, president of the Consejo Nacional Agropecuario (CNA). "We already have a market that is open to both the US and the European Union (EU), and the lack of agreement to reduce agricultural subsidies keeps us at a disadvantage."

Similar sentiments were expressed by Heladio Ramirez, who heads the Confederacion Nacional Campesina (CNC). Ramirez raised concerns that the failure of the WTO meeting would affect future relations between countries like Mexico and developed nations. "Everything will continue to be decided by the rich countries," said Ramirez. "They will impose the rules regarding the transfer of technology and the system of investments, which will widen the gap between the wealthy and the poor even more."

The British-based nongovernmental organization Oxfam was a major player in the debate against the subsidies by rich countries. Phil Bloomer, who led Oxfam's campaign to give the issue a higher profile at the Cancun meeting, expressed regret that wealthy nations were not more accommodating. "It appears the United States and the European Union were not prepared to listen and take the necessary steps to make global trade rules work for the poor as well as the rich," said Bloomer.

Mexican politicians also weighed in with their opinions. "The failure of the meeting is a clear signal that we have to use all the mechanisms we have available to strengthen our internal economy," said federal Deputy Alberto Aguilar Inarritu of the former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). Deputy Rene Arce of the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) suggested that Mexico formalize its participation in a bloc of developing nations, especially those that had a high profile in Cancun through the G-21.

The PRD approach was also endorsed by the Consejo Agrario Permanente (CAP), which cited the need to promote a new global agricultural trade agreement that allows the widest possible multilateral cooperation but that also favors the lesser- developed nations. "The G-21 proposes a reduction in export subsidies, which present the greatest distortions in the market," said CAP coordinator Max Correa. "In contrast, the text presented at the WTO offers a consolidated proposal that benefits primarily the US and the EU."

The organization Via Campesina took the proposal one step further at the Cancun meeting, recommending that small-scale producer organizations form a coalition to push for a comprehensive long-term agriculture agreement to boost domestic markets and demand that their governments revise agricultural relations with the US and the EU. Via Campesina, which has connections with the Mexican organization El Campo No Aguanta Mas, links small-scale farmers from 80 countries.

Groups push for higher agriculture budget to offset subsidies

The CAP, CNA, and other organizations, meanwhile, are urging President Vicente Fox's administration to take urgent steps to help Mexican agriculture in the absence of a major commitment of the US, EU, and Japan to reduce agricultural subsidies. …