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Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements

Road No. 2, A 33, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi 110 037, India
Tel: 011 - 26783000, 26784000; Fax: 011-26785001; Email: yudhvir55@yahoo.com
FARMERS' POSITION ON FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS AND THE WTO
Our primary position is to TAKE AGRICULTURE OUT OF WTO AND FTAs because free trade kills small
farmers and undermines national capacity to produce food.
Further liberalization of agriculture through the WTO and the more than 30 odd FTAs signed and/or being
negotiated will exacerbate rather than resolve the climate, food, agrarian and financial crises. It will severely
increase India's vulnerability as 75% of our population depends on the agriculture sector. Agriculture is first and
foremost a way of life in India, it is not a business and cannot be traded away to give foreign powers and MNCs
more control of our food and farming systems.
WHY WE OPPOSE FREE TRADE IN AGRICULTURE?
Free trade undermines our Right to Food and India's capacity to produce food: While India
attempts to create its first ever right to food act it undermines its own ability to feed Indian citizens
while increasing dependency on foreign exporters. For e.g. India has become a net importer of edible
oil and pulses despite being the largest producer of pulses. This is happened under the slashing of
import tariffs over the past years under the WTO regime and the new FTAs such as Malaysia India
FTA which will favour Malaysian agribusiness palm oil imports rather than supporting culturally
appropriate substitutes produced by Indian farmers such as from oil seeds. Free Trade also subject
local prices to international price volatility. When we become dependent on imports and global prices
are high, then there are also balance of payments problems. In the event of the global food crisis of
2008 we were able to prevent major national food crisis by putting export restrictions, however FTAs
demand and end to trade barriers thus undermining our ability to protect national consumers and
producers. Furthermore free trade regimes force farmers to adopt more export and market oriented
crops instead of much needed food crops in a country with the highest child malnutrition rate and one
of the highest hunger and poverty rates in the world.
Free trade kills small farmers: The WTO and FTAs lead to massive livelihood loss. Governments try
to convince the public that farmers will actually benefit once free trade comes into place due to
possibility of increased exports. But it is well known that industrialized countries provide massive
subsidies to their agribusiness who overproduce and look for large markets to dump into. Lets look at
the EU India FTA for e.g. This FTA wants to bring India's import tariffs down to zero or near zero levels
on 90% of agricultural commodities. Projections show that India's exports to EU will remain stagnant
while EU's exports into India will increase in agriculture and food. The EU on the other hand will block
Indian exports through technical barriers to trade such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures or
traceability issues. EU is also trying to enter extremely socially sensitive areas like dairy which is self
sufficient and employees the majority of rural poor and especially women. Presently milk is said
to be in the negative list, but EU its subsidized surplus production is pressing
for opening up the Indian Market. Such agreements therefore set the stage for import
surges that India will not be able to stop effectively under the agreements or even find out about in
time. Import surges devastate farmers who depend on those crops for their livelihoods. Farmers start
to move out of agriculture production overtime. According to the FAO, India and Bangladesh faced the
largest number of import surges of agriculture products in Asia over a 25 year period.
Intellectual Property rights of MNCs promote monopolies, undermine farmers plant variety's
and endanger biodiversity: While the WTO demands stringent TRIPs IPRs, bilateral FTAs with the
EU and Japan for e.g. demand even stricter TRIPs plus IPRs. These TRIPS agreements were drafted
with strong inputs and participation from the agribusiness industry. IPR further the privatisation of
seeds and intensify monopolies over seed, pesticides, fertilisers and animal vaccines. IPRs are
apparently a way to protect the innovative rights of TNCs who demand payments for the high R and D
costs. These royalties increase input prices thereby making farming more expensive and increasing
farmer debts the prime cause of farmer suicides in India. However we argue that TNCs steal our
germplasm in the first place before slightly altering and patenting it. These IPRs actually kill innovation,
whereas farmers have thousands of innovative practices and creations, these are not supported by the
state research establishment. IPRs, by weakening farmers FTAs and WTO ultimately make it easier
for agribusiness and biotechnology companies to enter
and dominate the food market.
Industrialized countries will continue to subsidize their agribusiness exports at the cost of our
farmers are consumers: This puts our farmers at a disadvantage as well as misleads our consumers
by providing industrially mass-produced, low quality food. Under the current Doha round developed
countries like the US will further increase their payouts to agribusiness lobbies, while developing
countries will be forced to further reduce protections and increase market access, putting in danger
their already vulnerable farming peoples.
Any so called 'safety mechanisms' for developing countries are trojan horses for the
acceptance of trade deals: Even the so-called safety mechanisms supposed to protect some
developing country agriculture such as Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanisms in the
WTO Doha deal are totally ineffective. In the WTO proposal for e.g., India can only protect eight or
nine crops from tariff reductions. This is nothing in a country where hundreds of crops are being
planted in over 15 agro-climatic zones! Moreover, there are highly ineffective and impractical
mechanisms to prevent import surges in developing countries. These mechanisms like SSM don't deal
with the chronic problems of low prices that the US and EUs subsidy regime create. Nor does it take
into account that most developing countries do not have the ability to monitor volume-based import
surges in time for the measure to be effective. Therefore, such safety mechanisms have absolutely
no possibility to counterbalance the negative impacts of the increasing liberalization in agriculture.
Free Trade Agreements reduce farmers access to productive resources: FTAs pave the way for
foreign investors. Therefore,they impact the patterns of land and water use.Tourism example attracts
many foreign investors. Small farmers are often expelled from their land toallow for hotels, resorts,
townships etc. to sprout up and they then have to compete hard to get access to water.
WHAT WE DEMAND?
Increase the import duties on all agricultural products to stop the inflow of subsidized imports and
import surges to protect the national food sovereignty and farmers lives.
Do not reduce agricultural tariffs
Reinstate Quantitative Restrictions (QR's) to prevent dumping of artificially cheep and subsidised
products, destroying farmers' livelihoods and the nations' food security;QRs are a right to defend
ourselves from perverse dumping.
Change trade's exclusive focus on corporate agriculture and instead focus its policies on farmer
centered and earth entered low lost high output biodiverse aroecological farming;
Ensure that the Indian negotiators must not give up agriculture for some concessions in other areas
e.g. GATS;
Ensure Indian farmers a fair and just prices and incomes for the vital work they perform for society in
food production. Fair prices require a reintroduction of QRs, given the high levels of subsidies rich
countries give for dumping agricultural products. Fair prices also require a minimum purchase price
(MPP) independent of whether the buyer is the government, private traders or global MNCs. Price
regulation is a duty of the government. Just prices are a fundamental right of farmers.
WHAT IS OUR ALTERNATIVE?
Food Sovereignty is our alternative to trade liberalization in agriculture.
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through
ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.
It's in total contradiction with the WTO and FTA rules that put the demands of markets and corporations at the
heart of food systems and policies. To reach a real reduction of global poverty, hunger and malnutrition, not
only do we ask you to take agriculture out of the WTO and FTAs deal but we also urge you to support the
following concrete proposals :
Strong protections and support for sustainable family farm based food production for domestic
consumption on the national level that must be allowed for within the global trading system.
A global trading system that disciplines corporate behaviour, and puts an end to dumping. A clear
prohibition of any speculation on food.
New regulations on the markets - policy of production control (supply management) to stabilize
agricultural prices.
Real agrarian reforms to assure that farmers who produce food for the population have access to
agricultural resources (lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity) rather than big
businesses which produce for export.
These measures, taken together, would truly start a strongly needed transformation of our food
system, and deliver important progress towards the achievement of Food Sovereignty, farmers
livelihoods and environmental protection.