Food crisis sparks role reversal in WTO

GENEVA, April 28, 2008 (AFP) – The food crisis is bringing about a role reversal in the World Trade Organization: traditionally liberal major food exporters are now imposing restrictions on exports while protectionist states are pushing for liberalisation. To deal with the recent hike in food prices, Argentina, Brazil, Vietnam, India and Egypt have all imposed limitations on the export of certain produce in order to ensure food security for their populations.

This is unusual for some of these countries. Argentina and Brazil, for instance, are part of the Cairns group, among the most aggressive proponents of liberalisation in the Doha round of trade liberalisation negotiations at the WTO.

The members of this group want the European Union and the United States to lower tariffs so they can export their food produce.

The direction taken by these developing nations is embarrassing their representatives in Geneva.

A Brazilian official told AFP that he “does not understand” his government’s decision to announce Thursday a temporary stoppage of rice exports.

Brazil’s government also said it was digging into its 1.6-million-ton reserve of rice to alleviate price pressure on the staple, which has become increasingly expensive worldwide as co