>Sent: 14 September 1999 11:14
>Subject: an NGO report from Maastricht
>Dear members of the virtual conference:
>As an NGO participant here in Maastricht I wish to share
>some impressions at lunch time of the third day. But
>first, to introduce myself: I am Peter Rosset of Food
>First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy, based in the
>USA, but I am the official participant on behalf of the
>Global Forum for Sustainable Nutrition and Food Security,
>based in Brazil, which has hundreds of civil society
>organization members from both South and North countries
>NGO participation has thus far been frustrating for two
>1. The rules of engagement are such that the floor is
>first given to each government who wishes to speak,
>then to each multi-lateral agency who wishes to speak,
>and finally, if there are a few minutes left over, the
>NGOs, unions and other civil society actors may get a word
>or two in edgewise (when everyone is already exhausted
>and ready to leave!).
>2. There appears to be a coordinated and well orchestrated effort by the
>Cairns Groups countries and followers to sabotage this meeting. For those
>not "in the know," the Cairns Group brings togteher the major grain
>exporting countries and 'friends.' These include the United States (the
>leader), Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay,
>and some others. A few countries who, based on objective criteria, should
>not be in this group, but due to political pressure are, seem to include the
>Philippines and some others.
>The Cairns Group is locked in mortal combat with the EU on the agricultural
>negotiations leading up to the WTO ministerial in Seattle later this year.
>While the Europeans would like to preserve some protection for their
>farmers, the big grain exporters want
>complete free trade on a global scale (for obviously selfish reasons --
>which is not to say that Europe does not have selfish motivations as well!
>After all, the North is the North!). The Cairns Group is very worried that
>Southern nations may rally around multi-functionality in opposition to
>trade liberalization in the WTO, so they are trying to drive a wedge between
>Europe and the South ('divide and conquer').
>Therefore each time a Cairns reprsentative speaks, he or she says (always
>using the exact same language as though they were programmed robots) that
>multi-functionality is a European conspiracy to maintain export subsidies
>(not true -- if it is a selfish argument from Europe, it is to protect
>themselves from U.S. dumping), that it is a "meaningless and useless
>concept," and that it is a diguise for all kinds of "trade distorting"
>policies. They further argue that "trade distorting mechanisms" always
>damage the environment and increase poverty. With these arguments they hope
>this meeting will produce nothing, and that
>most Southern countries will join with the U.S. and the other
>big grain exporters in voting for full liberalization in Seattle.
>This is very unfortunate, for if most South countries join the
>U.S. in this, they will be committing rural suicide. If they are
>lured by anti-EU sentiments into dropping their own sovereignty
>and right to protect and guide their own agricultural development, they run
>the risk of having their economies innundated with cheap Cairns group
>exports, which will undercut their own rural producers and intensify the
>collapse of rural livelihhods and the exodus to the cities.
>Because the Cairns Groups members and their followers are numerous, and
>because their strategy is to monopolize the floor and endlessless repeat the
>same mantra, the meeting has become a very depressing exercise.
>We seem to wasting what would be an excellent opportunity to work together
>on policies that could create enabling macroeconomic environments and other
>policies to realize the full multi-functional potential of agriculture,
>particularly on how to maximize the potential and participation of poor,
>small farmers in their domestic economies.
>Virtually all the NGO representatives are very frustrated, but we will
>continue to struggle to make the remaining days productive.
>See my paper for this conference posted at the
>Food First website: http://www.foodfirst.org
>Best wishes to all,
Mexico, D.F. & San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas
Tel. y FAX 525-666-73-66 (DF)
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