5 Feb 2014
Food Security after Bali
Agriculture and food security issues threatened to stymie progress in drafting multilateral trade rules at the Ninth World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Bali last December. Agreement on a package of measures was only reached after the clock had been stopped.
Christian Häberli, a senior research fellow at the World Trade Institute, has produced a paper analysing the ministerial draft decision. He presented his analysis to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Expert Meeting on Stocks, Markets and Stability in Rome at the end of January. That meeting concluded that - after three food price hikes in just five years and irrespective of their well-known inefficiencies and detrimental effects on global food security - public food reserves have come to stay as the best available option.
The best possible outcome from Bali, according to the report, could be that the ministerial decision serves as a launchpad for a well-designed WTO work programme on food security between now and the Eleventh Ministerial Conference, probably in 2017.
The worst-case scenario would be that it widens the window for government-financed competition under current rules - without increasing global food security or guaranteeing no subsidy claims under the WTO dispute settlement mechanism.
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