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April 27, 2008

UNCTAD should regulate trade in agriculture commodities to reduce dominance of multinational corporations

ActionAid has hit out at resistance by the EU and the US to demands by G77 for a stronger role for UNCTAD to regulate trade in agriculture commodities. The EU and US are also accused of starving UNCTAD of resources and limiting its mandate.

“The EU and US are pushing this responsibility to national governments knowing too well that they do not have capacity to negotiate with powerful multinationals dominating agricultural commodity trading,” said Aftab Alam Khan, ActionAid’s International Trade Policy Coordinator.

At the heart of commodity issues are complex agricultural commodity issues where multinational companies dominating the sector dictate the terms adversely affecting commodity-reliant developing countries while extracting unfair profits from the supply chain.

Joint ActionAid and South Centre research reveals six top coffee trading companies held half of the world market in 1998 while in 2002 only two companies controlled three-quarters of the global grain trade and another two, half of world’s banana trade.

UNCTAD has a clear mandate to work effectively on commodity issues so that small scale farmers are encouraged to produce more food to ensure national food sovereignty.

ActionAid believes a lasting solution to the pressures in the current food supply must include increased investment in smallholder agriculture and mechanisms to ensure they benefit adequately from commodities trading.

“ActionAid condemns moves by the EU and the US to further marginalise UNCTAD from the international trade and development agenda. While poor countries are facing increased challenges from globalisation, the EU and US are opposing G77 (Group of Developing Countries) demands to create an UNCTAD commission on globalisation,” said Alam Khan. “It will be a travesty of justice if the goals and aspirations of poor countries are neglected at this conference,” he added.

Resources must be provided to UNCTAD to implement its mandate in trade and development. Any interference from any quarter is deemed as a betrayal to the cause of the developing world.

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