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Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Not the time for neoliberal food trade policies

Egypt joins India, Sri Lanka in threatening to block WTO food export agreement: Egypt is among a group of countries threatening to block an agreement to curb food protectionism at the ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting, where members are searching for solutions to the escalating food crisis stemming from the war in Ukraine, according to Reuters.

The WTO is trying to reach two agreements at this week’s meeting in Geneva: One to prevent curbs on food exports and increase transparency, and another to maintain supplies to the World Food Programme.

The sticking point: The newswire reports a WTO spokesperson as saying that Egypt and Sri Lanka are holding out on signing the agreement because they want members to recognize that they might not be able to ship food overseas. Both countries are net food importers and have been especially hard hit by rising food prices and supply chain disruption caused by the war in Ukraine.

Egyptian officials submitted a resolution of their own, which the Foreign Ministry said yesterday aims to provide “practical solutions to support farmers and producers” and boost local grain and other crop production, without providing further information. This resolution was submitted on behalf of MENA and African countries who need to adapt their food supply chains to the current crisis, the statement reads, but with little detail.

Egypt has been restricting food exports since March, when it placed a ban on the export of staple foods such as wheat, flour, oils and corn.

India is making different demands: India wants the organization to give room for developing countries to maintain food stocks without being penalized for providing support to local farmers in breach of WTO rules.

India’s curbs aren’t making our lives any easier: The wheat export restrictions introduced last month have jeopardized what had looked to be one of the more reliable replacements for Ukraine and Russia, which prior to the war provided some 80% of Egypt’s wheat imports. Authorities are negotiating with Indian officials to be made exempt from the ban but nothing has yet been confirmed.

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