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FAO Conference: Pressure from Globalizers Seeks To Stifle Impulse to Agricultural Development

June 4, 2008 (EIRNS)—The FAO conference in Rome is seeing a concerted effort from pro-free trade sectors to impose a consensus on the measures to be taken to deal with the global food crisis, despite the natural inclination from many delegations and political leaders to take immediate, concerted action to guarantee food self-sufficiency for all countries. From UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, to the representatives of the United States and other industrialized nations, the marching orders are to dangle the carrot of immediate aid for the poorest countries, while preparing the stick of trade liberalization as a long-term, structural approach which can solve imbalances in the agricultural sector.

An example of this strategy came from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, who began a press conference by presenting proposals for immediate food aid for the 20 poorest countries—just to show he cares—while reminding everyone that the long-term approach must be that of opening markets to complete "free trade."

Representatives of EIR attending the event have the call from Helga Zepp-LaRouche, head of the Schiller Institute, to get rid of the World Trade Organization and its policies, and double food production worldwide. They had numerous discussions with delegates from developing countries, finding widespread agreement that the WTO's push to eliminate subsidies and tariffs is antithetical to the actual needs of their countries. In fact, the majority of the discussions taking place at least publicly center around how to improve cooperation among governments and international agencies to increase investment, and thus production and productivity, in agriculture. However, although the delegates and many high-level officials are clearly focussed on pressing, fundamental questions such as irrigation, technology, and infrastructure, their positions are continuously undercut by the consensus on trade liberalization. There is great reluctance to publicly buck the WTO faction.

The LaRouche movement's material is circulating widely, in at least five languages, and EIR representatives have intervened in several press conferences and presentations, placing the real issues on the table. One high-level western official privately told EIR that despite the alleged consensus, there is indeed disagreement behind the scenes, along the lines indicated by EIR. He placed himself on the pro-free trade side, but admitted that the real debate is being avoided by many in public. [ccc/pbg]

In one example, EIR's Andrew Spannaus intervened in a press conference given in Rome by FAO Director Jacques Diouf, U.S. representative Robert Zoellick, and heads of the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

I'm Andrew Spannaus of Executive Intelligence Review, the magazine of Lyndon LaRouche.

There is much discussion of the importance of coordinated intervention to deal with the crisis. However, there is a large contradiction: at the same time, trade liberalization is being pushed with the Doha round of the WTO.

In speaking with delegations from developing countries, many see this policy of trade liberalization as a continuation of the IMF policy, and colonialism, of only exporting to rich markets. In Europe there is also a spirited defense of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Would it not be better to work together for a policy of guaranteeing investment and food self-sufficiency, and abandon the market policy, which is subject to financial speculation and distortion, rather than having to clean up the mess created by that market policy afterwards?

Diouf started out with a passionate response on the problems in the low-income countries, responding directly to EIR. At the end, though, he failed to sufficiently challenge the "rules of the game" set by the others on the dais.

There is a lack of investment, technology, inputs, and infrastructure, which does not allow those countries to produce efficiently, Diouf said. Some countries, with only 2%-4% of their population, are able to produce and export; others, with 60%-80% of their population in agriculture, do not succeed in producing enough. Seed and fertilizer are needed. Investment must be increased. This is the supply response. But there is also the demand response. Some progress has been made. The question is how supply and demand meet. There are problems, represented by subsidies, tariffs, and property rights on seeds, which prevent supply and demand from meeting properly. So it is a complex question, we have to look at all of the issues.

In terms of priority, Diouf concluded, immediate measures need to be taken for planting, to allow the countries to deal with the crisis right now.