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FMD Trip Report – June 2005

Traveler: Paul B. Green, Marketing Consultant
Dates June 25- July 2, 2005

Purpose: To consult with WTO and UN officials on the future of US food aid programs, particularly the effects of WTO disciplines on the method of food aid delivery.
Itinerary: June 25-29 Geneva, Switzerland
June 29-July 2 Rome, Italy
Summary
GENEVA
  1. As the Doha Development Agenda progresses toward the next Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong December 8-13, 2005, a flurry of acitiviy has taken place in recent weeks, including discussions of the food aid portion of the Export Competition Pillar.  Timing for NAMA to engage offieicals in Geneva and Rome to discuss the food aid provisions of the WTO was excellent, for the following reasons:
  • EC (European Commission) paper presented to the WTO on June 24, 2005 attacking US food aid and demanding ‘cash only’ for both emergency and development aid. (attached)
  • They also presented equally radical papers on STE’s (State Trading Entities) and Export Credits as part of their conditions for agreeing to phase out export subsidies.
  • Mongolian paper written with input from US PVO community defending US food aid programs to be released about July 1. (attached)
  • Chairman Groser’s paper on the status of the overall negotiations released June 28, with guidelines for issues to be decided by end of July and others to be discussed in the fall, leading up to the Ministerial.  (available by fax)
  • Plans for Mini-Ministerial in Dalian, China July 11- 16 and possibly more intense talks between ministers near the end of July.
  • Acceptance by most parties that issues not decided by the end of July will be intensely negotiated in Geneva from September- Mid November, to prepare for Hong Kong.
  1. NAMA took advantage of a loose group of US ag groups known as the Agriculture Trade Coalition that has jointly visited Geneva in the past and had organized this trip to engage important ag negotiators on various issues in the ag negotiation.  Being part of the Ag Trade group allowed access to various high level officials that NAMA alone would not have access to, on our own.  We met with several Ambassadors and agricultural officials who normally would not meet with single interest ag groups.
  2. The EC’s papers have sent both fear and unease through other partners to the negotiations.  They are cynical that the EC’s papers are tactics to get out of pressure they feel to end subsidies and commit to more open agriculture markets under the market access pillar of the WTO.  The idea is that they are demanding such a steep price for their conditioned end to subsidies or market access that there won’t be agreement and they won’t have to implement.  Their so-called parallelism is completely a tactic and I was very blunt in my discussion with the EC officials that it was not a good faith effort to negotiate and that we would attempt to assure that they were not successful.  If successful, they would be responsible for the threat to vulnerable people’s lives and that we’d assure that this was laid at their feet.  They tried to deflect that responsibility, saying that any decreases in food aid as a result of the WTO would be a “consensus” and not due to their actions.  I told them that we did not accept that argument and we agreed to disagree.
  3. There were varying opinions by other negotiators on whether the EC strategy would be successful.  It appears that Australia and perhaps other nations that had been semi-supportive of the EC attitude toward food aid in the past, now thinks the EC has “overreached”.  Others think that the EC position went way beyond the WTO framework from July 2004 that merely pledged that food aid should not create trade displacement or disruption.  We got good response from the South African ag counselor, who wanted to stick to the framework’s mandate.  We proposed that it might be helpful for the US and S. Africa to do a joint paper pinpointing the types of disciplines that might meet that mandate.   Followup- Contact S. African Mission to discuss position on food aid.
  4. The Argentine contacts expressed the most disturbing opinion about the EC strategy.  Since they hadn’t paid much attention to the food aid debate, they said they would now and it would be their approach to acquiesce to the EC postion to assure that their most important agenda item- the end to export subsidies survived.  I told them that this would mean the EC strategy was working, but they were more concerned with the export subsidies than any other item.
  5. It is apparent that the September-October period will include critical discussions and trade offs on food aid issues.  NAMA will need to be prepared to visit Geneva and Rome for consultations at least once during that time period.  It is apparent that we are more effective in getting substantive meetings in weeks when major ag negotiations are not going on.  Our strategy should be to engage US ag negotiators in Washington and other country negotiators in Geneva during the “off” weeks.
    Follow Up- Plan NAMA representation at Hong Kong meetings and engage USDA and USTR negotiators on food aid strategy.
ROME
  1. WFP continues to value NAMA as one of the most important private sector partners in food aid and encourage us to remain active in issues such as HIV/AIDS, school feeding and the WTO talks, with them.
  2. Most WFP officials did not bring up the ‘green CSB’ issue and it was not discussed.  However, there was some concern shown about the delay in tenders for CSB and the effect that delays were having on WFP planning and food pipelines.  I expressed that NAMA shared that concern and was actively engaged in asking USDA to proceed with tenders for CSB as quickly as possible.
  3. When we discussed what “lessons learned” from the green CSB issue, WFP pointed out two requests they are making to USDA that they would like NAMA support for:
    1. Independent random sampling “post manufacture” for a number of nutritional characteristics.  I told them we would examine the request and discuss it with USDA.  I pledged to respond in a timely manner on recommendations we’d have for such a procedure.
    2. Manufacture and/or Best If Used By dates on all milled products as an inventory management tool.

    Follow Up- Engage with USDA on this subject and respond to WFP ASAP.

  4. FAO had a meeting in January and discussed the monitoring and consultative process for WTO food aid and a paper summarizing their thoughts was issued by Ali Gurkan, NAMA’s main contact in the Ag section of FAO.
  5. FAO confirmed that the EU strategy related to the CSSD and FAC are to not discuss using them as the monitoring/consultative body for food aid issues, since if they get their way and all food aid is done in cash through the UN, there would be no need for consultation.

 

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