The more things stay the same: Lessons from Jamaica’s 1988 Communication at the Uruguay Round

In 1988, at the Multilateral Trade Negotiations of the Uruguay Round , Group of Negotiation on Goods, Negotiating Group on Agriculture (GATT), Jamaica issued a Communication titled “Elements for a proposal by developing countries” (MTN.GNG/NG5/w/68).

As we lead up to the 36th Meeting of the Committee for World Food Security (CFS), and in the push for food sovereignty, the issues and concerns outlined by Jamaica in 1988 remain remarkably the same: the need for horizontal policy measures, valuing agriculture and food production (economically, socially), problems of distribution and inequity in tariffs and subsidies, enhanced support for rural poor and small-holder producers.

From the Communication:

4. The following are some of the issues which have been identified by
developing countries
and which require action as appropriate if the
Negotiating Objectives are to be achieved.
(a) the importance of agriculture for the overall development of the
economy
including increased output, employment and export
earnings;
(b) the linkage between agricultural policies and other economic
policies in meeting social, regional and political objectives

including food security;
(c) the low level of investment in this sector in developing
countries, the impact of the environment and the vulnerability to
weather conditions, e.g. drought, flooding and other natural
disasters, and plague infestation;
(d) the need for their governments to provide subsidies and
incentives to increase productivity and output in the
agricultural sector, and to ameliorate skewed income distribution
adversely affecting the rural farm population and food
consumption of the urban poor
;
(e) factors such as external debt servicing and trade protectionism
have inhibited their capacity to maintain food imports (food,
agricultural raw materials and inputs), and have reduced their
export earnings
(with the long-term prospects continuing to be
unfavourable);
(f) the incomes of the farmers and the poorest sections of the
population in developing countries should be safeguarded
; the
terms of trade of net food importing countries should not be made
worse through increased prices for imports – consequently any
increases in the prices of products exported by the developed
countries should be offset by appropriate compensatory measures,
including, inter alia, food aid, IMF compensatory financing, so
as to avoid any adverse impact on their economies.

23 years ago the obstables were clear, and yet food and agriculture policy has moved forward and completely disregarded the concerns and well-being of the majority of the world’s people.

My fingers are crossed that with time, the Renewed Committee for World Food Security, with one state-one vote and enhanced participation from civil society and those most effected by food insecurity, will provide a forum for the development of policies that actively forward food sovereignty.

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