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Civil Society Calls On African Trade Ministers to Push for End to Farm Subsidies

African civil society organizations are following developments at this week’s African trade ministers’ meeting. They say the ongoing World Trade Organization talks, known as the Doha Round, should be of major concern to the trade ministers. That’s because they say the continent’s development agenda is “being lost,” especially around the issue of agricultural subsidies.

Mouhamet Lamine Ndiaye is a trade expert for OXFAM International and is attending the trade ministers meeting in Nairobi. He spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua:

“Our main concern for this African Union trade ministers meeting is to make sure the Doha development round is the round for African countries, which means that we need to make sure that development is put at the center of these coming negotiations. Because the Hong Kong agreement (late last year) needs to be finalized. And it will probably be finalized during this year. So we want to make sure that the concerns of the African people, the concerns of the poor farmers are taken into account during these coming negotiations.”

Asked if he foresees any possible stumbling blocks to a trade agreement, Ndiaye says, “We would like to see progress in agriculture. We would like to see less subsidies. Particularly, less trade-distorting subsidies within the developed countries. Domestic subsidies, mainly in the EU and the US, need to be drastically reduced so that poor people and farmers in Africa will be able now to have better livelihoods.”

As to how confident he is that rich nations will cut subsidies, the OXFAM trade expert says, “I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but what I want to say that we have very, very modest progress as we got through the export subsidies. But export subsidies account for only 10 percent of all subsidies. The majority of the subsidies, which are the domestic subsidies, account roughly for 90 percent. We want to have a deadline, even if it is 2020, 2025, whenever it is. We need to have a deadline first and then have a process by which those subsidies will be completely eradicated.”