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Thursday, 04 September 2008 13:22

The Southeast Asian Council for Food Security and Fair Trade Seattle Declaration

We, the council members of The Southeast Asian Council for Food Security and Fair Trade [The SEA Council], a council represented by civil society organizations working actively in the nexus of food, trade and agriculture in the region of Southeast Asia hereby categorically state that food sovereignty is a basic and fundamental right of each nation. Each sovereign nation must have the independence and discretionary powers to unilaterally decide the foods need of its nation and ensure ways and means to produce and provide adequate supply of food for her people.

We are of the opinion that the Agreement on Agriculture in an unfair agreement thrust upon the developing and least developing nations. Thus, we are advancing the following demands for the Third Ministerial Meeting in Seattle to act on:

No New Negotiations 

1.0 The SEA Council calls for an immediate and total stop to any new negotiations on agriculture. There shall not be any new negotiations until a through and satisfactory review of the implementation of the Agreement on Agriculture in the 1994 Uruguay Round is completed. The Uruguay Round of the trade agreements has caused harm to the millions of farmers in Southeast Asian.
1.1 The SEA Council calls instead for the developed nations to live up to their commitments under the Uruguay Round to liberalize their markets to products from the developing nation. The developed nations of the North, especially the European Union and United States, must live up to the letter and spirit of the Uruguay Round, which they have not done so far.
1.2 Moreover liberalization in the North must not be accompanies by reciprocal concessions from the developing countries. Owing to their Special and Differential Status, the developing countries must have the discretion to decide whether or not to further liberalize their markets or even protect for the common good.
1.3 In line with the principle of Food Sovereignty, each member country must be able to take measures to protect the small farmers of each country.
1.4 Realizing that developing countries will not be able to compete with the developed nations, the developing nations must be able to institute or reinstitue tariffs and quotas to protect its subsistence food producing sector.

The Principle of Subsidiarity

2.0 The SEA Council supports the principles of Subsidiarity, which says that if products can be produced at reasonable cost locally, they should be produced there instead of having them be produced elsewhere owing to superficial and often flawed calculations of “comparative advantage.” This will ensure the protection of local communities, the diversity of plant life, and the environment. Using the criterion of narrow comparative advantage often results in net losses for society as a whole, resulting in tremendous social cost as massive displacement occurs. The principle of subsidiarity is of special significant to Southeast Asia, where at least half of the population still depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Indeed, in this region, agriculture is not just a sector of production but a way of life.

The Principle of Multifunctionality

3.0 For non-exporting developed countries such as South Korea and Japan, it is acceptable for governments to invoke the principle of multifunctionality to justify support for their small farmers.

Multifunctionality is a principle that says that agriculture not only has productive functions but also culture, political, and environmental functions that would be harmed by liberalization. However, the council considers the use of the multifunctionality argument by the European Union as unjustified, hypocritical, and malicious, since it is use to legitimize massive subsidies that are creating tremendous surpluses that are being dumped on developing country markets and destroying local production.
3.1 Thus, the SEA Council calls for elimination of all exports subsidies and export credit and all forms of direct payments in the developed agro-exporting countries since these subsidies distort prices in the international market and promotes mounting surplus for exports.

Genetically Modified Organism & Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights

4.0 The SEA Council strongly maintains that the world Trade organization should not govern trade in Genetically Modified Food. It should be the purview of multilateral environment agreement such as the Biosafety Protocol. Nations must have the right to ban or impose restrictions on the entry of genetically Modified Food.
4.1 The SEA Council abhors any forms of patenting on any types of life forms. Life in any form should not be a commodity to be property of a selected few, especially considering that life is a common heritage of all. The SEA Council calls on all members of WTO to acknowledge the Convention on Biological Diversity and to support the Biosafety Protocol negotiations as the appropriate forum concerning threats of genetically modified organisms [GMO] to biodiversity, to health, and to the environment.
Focus on the Global South, Thailand

  • Sustainable Agriculture Forum, Laos
  • Asia Pacific Secretariat For Consumerism, Advocacy, research and education, Malaysia (APS-CARE)
  • Education and Research Association for Consumers, Malaysia, Malaysia (ERA Consumer)
  • Pesticide Action Network – Indonesia
  • Management and Organisational Development for Empowerment, Philippines (MODE)
  • Alternatives Forum for Research in Mindano, Philippines (AFRIM)
  • ISIS International – Manila, Philippines
  • PADEK, Cambodia
  • PAN – AP, Malaysia
  • VACVINA, Vietnam