Fourteen Faith Groups to U.S Trade Representative: Support Developing Country Demands to Safeguard Food Staples at WTO Ministerial

Delivery of more than 100 rice bags to USTR headquarters highlights interfaith campaign for trade policy that supports global food security

Washington, D.C; Nov. 25, 2009— A coalition of 14 faith groups, led by American Jewish World Service (AJWS), delivered more than 100 “gift bags” of rice today to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) demanding that U.S. trade negotiators support safeguard mechanisms for special products— including food staples such as rice, maize and wheat— at the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial in Geneva.

The coalition’s demand is made in support of a large group of developing countries advocating for certain farm goods to be classified as Special Products (SP), which would make them exempt from tariff cuts. Through this classification, they seek to protect food security, small farmers’ livelihoods, and rural development. In addition, these countries have proposed the creation of a Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) that would allow them to raise tariffs and take other measures to offset import surges that harm small farmers.

“This is a moral issue, not a political one: Trade rules should not hinder the ability of developing nations to provide food for their people,” said Ruth W. Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service. “A safeguard mechanism is needed so that vulnerable populations do not find themselves at the mercy of the volatile market forces that caused the 2008 food crisis.”

The developing country group, known as the G-33, has spearheaded the demand for the creation of a SSM as well as a SP category to protect the interests of small-scale farmers in the WTO Doha Round negotiations. Led by Indonesia, the G-33 represents 46 countries including Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Korea, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Other developing country blocks such as the Africa Group, the Least Developed Countries Group (LDC) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) have endorsed the G-33 position, meaning that the demand for SSM and SP has the support of more than 100 developing nations.

“We welcome the new emphasis by the Obama Administration on global food security and would like to see it reflected in the U.S. negotiators’ positions this week at the WTO Ministerial,” said Messinger. “We are hopeful that new U.S. leadership will result in strong support for these mechanisms that would help ensure the right to food for all nations.”

Faith groups participating in this initiative are: American Jewish World Service, Center of Concern, Church World Service, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Justice and Witness Ministries United Church of Christ, Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Missionary Oblates, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Medical Mission Sisters Alliance for Justice, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office, NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby, Presbyterian Church, (USA), Washington Office, Quixote Center, United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Justice and Peace Network. These organizations are members of the Washington, DC-based Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment.

About The Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment
Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment is a Washington, DC-based working group with representatives from a range of faith-based organizations committed to asserting a stronger presence of communities of faith in public policy discussions on international trade and investment. The IWG believes that international trade and investment policies and practices present a serious moral challenge because of their profound effect upon the lives of people around the world and upon creation.

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