A key WTO ministerial meeting next month must address the current global food crisis by ensuring that the Doha Round of free trade talks finds ways to guarantee food security, a UN expert said Wednesday.
An over-reliance on food imports in the world’s least developed countries has left them vulnerable to price shocks and shortages, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, said, urging the World Trade Organization to act.
The food import bills of the least developed countries have soared by over a third over the last year, he noted.
De Schutter made a series of recommendations ahead of the WTO ministerial meeting in Geneva December 15-17 when the future of the Doha Round of trade liberalisation talks and the global trading system will be under discussion.
These include the establishment of an expert panel to reconcile food security and trade concerns, and a protocol to monitor the impact of trade on food prices.
He also called for a waiver to exempt food security-related measures from WTO requirements.
“We must avoid face-saving, short-term solutions aimed at hauling Doha over the line,” De Schutter said.
“Instead, we should grasp the opportunity to ask what kind of trade rules will allow us to combat food insecurity and realise the human right to food.”
Among measures to boost local food production capacity were state purchases from smallholders, safety net insurance schemes and targeted farm subsidies, De Schutter said.
“If the Doha Round is to move forward, it must lift any possible constraints on policies aimed at securing the right to food — such measures should include food stock-holding that aims to reduce price volatility and ensure access to adequate food at the local level,” he added.
Launched a decade ago in the Qatari capital, the Doha Round of negotiations for a global free trade pact have repeatedly missed deadlines amid disagreements between industrialised states and developing nations over the level of farm subsidy and industrial tariff cuts.