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Food Security Becomes Divisive Issue At WTO Ministerial Meeting

“The World Trade Organization’s [WTO] ninth ministerial meeting at Bali, Indonesia, has morphed into a fierce battle between the countries seeking social safety nets for hundreds of millions of poor people and those insisting on having advanced import-facilitation programs in the developing countries on par with the industrialized nations,” Inter Press Service reports (Devarakonda, 12/4). “Food security has been an obstacle to reaching an 11th-hour agreement at the WTO’s 159-country summit in Bali,” BBC News notes. Officials from member states held talks in Geneva prior to the Bali meeting to discuss “agriculture and the sustainability of food security programs, such as the one being run by the Indian government,” the news service writes (11/4). “India along with a group of countries including Bolivia, Cuba, Kenya, South Africa, Venezuela and Zimbabwe pressed hard for improved rules to ensure that their public stockholding programs for food security are not undermined by flawed trade rules,” IPS writes.

“India’s trade minister Anand Sharma said at the plenary meeting that ‘Food security is essential for four billion people and is an important goal of the Millennium Development Goals,'” according to IPS (12/4). “The U.S. trade representative, Michael Froman, asked the WTO’s member economies to work past their differences in order to help finalize the deal during the Bali summit,” BBC notes. “Leaving Bali this week without an agreement would deal a debilitating blow to the WTO as a forum for multilateral negotiations. … If that happens, the unfortunate truth is that the loss will be felt most heavily by those members who can least afford it,” Froman said, the news service writes (12/4).