UN makes new appeal for rich countries to end trade practices hurting

“If trade is to serve as an engine of economic growth and poverty alleviation, countries both in the North as well as the South need to broaden their production base on a fair competitive basis,” FAO Assistant Director-General Hartwig de Haen said in remarks prepared for delivery on the second day of the 5th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Cancún, Mexico.“Food and agricultural trade is vital for food security, poverty alleviation and growth,” Mr. de Haen added, noting that food imports contribute to the supply of basic foodstuffs in many of the world’s poorest countries while agricultural exports were an important source of rural income and foreign exchange.Many poorer countries that rely primarily on agriculture for their economic development will become increasingly dependent on aid, slip deeper into debt and face major food shortages unless they improve their competitiveness in agricultural products both domestically and internationally through investment and fairer trade, FAO warned.The agency made 12 recommendations in a prepared statement, including tariff de-escalation, effective measures to counter possible negative effects of trade reforms in the least developed and net food importing countries, simplicity in international trade rules and increased support to help developing countries become more competitive in trade.FAO noted that some 840 million people are chronically undernourished, 800 million of them in developing countries, and more than 70 per cent of the world’s extremely poor and undernourished live in rural areas, with agriculture representing the main source of income for about 2.5 billion people in developing countries alone.“The markets for temperate zone products and basic food commodities continue to be substantially distorted due to government subsidies and protection, particularly in rich countries. Export subsidies on products exported by developed countries continue,” Mr. de Haen said.“Enormous untapped agricultural potential exists in developing countries to meet the twin challenges of hunger and poverty. What we need is a renewed focus on effective North-South cooperation so that available resources are used efficiently,” he added. read more