The Failure of Cancún

Public Citizen
October/November 2003
Vol. 4, No. 5

The Failure of Cancún
by Gerard Vuffray
European Confederation of Farmers, Switzerland

The failure of the world Trade Organization's Ministerial in Cancún in September, which focused heavily on agriculture issues, is a huge relief for people around the world.

Because no agreement was reached, there is time to keep working for other approaches to international trade relations. There is strong resistance in new fields of negotiations – investments, competition, trade facilitation and transparency in public procurements.

Hopefully, many governments realized that the U.S. and EU can be derailed in their efforts to dominate the political agenda of the 148-nation WTO.

The collapse of the Ministerial is good news for farmers and their families all over the world. But it is not enough. The toll of the first Agreement on Agriculture is already too great. It is essential to renew the demand for a worldwide assessment of the agreement and its impacts on billions of people who depend on farming. It would be misguided to use stronger doses of the current medication already destroying family farming.

The delay offered by the Cancún failure should be used to promote alternatives to the global economic war that is the basis of WTO trade rules. Farmers and citizens all over the world have common values and common interests. There is time to reinforce ties and alliances, and to fight for the right of communities, regions and counties to define their own policies and priorities.

Food sovereignty is a high priority in the global North and South alike. Because the WTO is not willing to take into account essential food sovereignty principles, the WTO must be taken out of the equation.

The other challenge is to put the WTO in its proper place by integrating it into the network of United Nations specialized institutions, a long-overdue reform.

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