Farm groups say trade rules threaten food security

BRUSSELS Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:03pm IST

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - An international group of farm unions has called on agriculture ministers from the Group of 20 leading economies (G20) to oppose further liberalisation in global agricultural trade in order to boost food security.

G20 farm ministers meet in Paris later this week to discuss France's push to tackle rising food prices, but limiting trade liberalisation in agricultural goods is not among the proposals up for discussion.

In a joint declaration issued on Monday, farm groups from Europe, Africa, Asia and North America defended the use of trade tariffs and production quotas by countries to secure food supplies and stabilise prices.

"We would like to send out a very clear and precise message today to the ministers of the G20 who are going to be meeting over the next few days," Paolo Bruni, of EU farm union Copa-Cogeca, told a news briefing in Brussels.

"The World Trade Organization is not working. It's not working because many countries believe that agriculture can be treated just like any other economic sector. The market needs rules, it cannot be left to work for itself," Bruni said.

The declaration broadly backed France's G20 proposals to tackle speculation on agricultural commodity markets, and limit export restrictions on humanitarian food aid.

But G20 agriculture ministers are not expected to support the farm unions' call to oppose further liberalisation of agricultural trade in future global or bilateral agreements.

Instead, G20 farm ministers will spell out their desire to see a successful conclusion to the currently stalled Doha Round of global free trade talks, according to draft conclusions prepared for the meeting.

The World Trade Organization warned in a leaked report this month that moves to restrict farm trade could cause serious food shortages.

Global trade flows in farm products were supposed to be regulated by a single world trade accord at the WTO, but talks for such a treaty have stalled indefinitely.

(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore, additional reporting by Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck, editing by Rex Merrifield)

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