November 26, 2013
Dear Ambassador Froman,
We write to express our dismay at U.S. opposition to proposals at the World Trade Organization (WTO) by developing countries to address their food security objectives, including reducing volatility in food prices and supplies. We urge you to support the G33’s proposal to allow for greater public spending to ensure more stable food supplies and prices.
Food prices have been extremely volatile in recent years. This has been harmful to farmers in
the global North and South. We continue to call for the establishment of grain reserves to
dampen that volatility and advance fair prices for farmers everywhere. Grain reserves are
neither simple nor cheap to operate. Yet the alternatives are worse. The lack of insurance
against market failure cost enormous sums of money in emergency assistance, money the
international community has to pay. The lack of provision for instability also costs lives – lives
lost to hunger as an immediate consequence, and lives blighted for several generations by the
effects of malnutrition on fetal development.
International markets serve those with the greatest purchasing power. This makes market
mechanisms alone inadequate from the perspective of those whose purchasing power to
secure food for their families is eclipsed by other demands on food systems, including the
demands that generate significant food waste, as well as the demand for feed and fuel. The U.S.
government has intervened through both its agriculture and its social welfare programs for
over 100 years in recognition of market failures that need correction.
Yet our administration’s trade policy ignores our domestic experience. For instance, while many
in Congress are fighting to retain public funding levels for the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP) at home, you are seeking to undermine policy space for developing
countries to fulfil their own food security objectives with far fewer resources than are available n the United States. Many of the poor in developing countries are often also small scale
agricultural producers. Contrary to the letter sent to you by US commodity groups and
agribusiness interests on October 24, we, the many US farm, faith-based and non-governmental
organizations working on agriculture, food security, nutrition, health and economic justice
acknowledge that the current agriculture rules in the WTO (including domestic support) are
rigged to support big agribusiness. We do all countries a disservice when we promote only
commercial export interests, ignoring the real political (and moral) imperative that
governments are responsible for their citizens’ welfare, including their right to adequate and
affordable food and fair prices to agriculture producers.
The G33 food security proposal is an important first step in the reframing of global trade rules
to promote more equitable and stable markets, especially for countries that face huge food
security challenges. The U.S. proposal for a “Peace Clause” to suspend potential challenges to
those efforts at the WTO is an unfair and inadequate response to a sensible proposal to explore
new options to improve stability in national and global markets. We support the G33 proposal
and call on the U.S. government to do the same.