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Dirt in Toten – live Africa?

Who should we show solidarity with – farmers on Toten or in Africa? This is how Norway's situation in the WTO negotiations is often presented.


The WTO is in the midst of its many parallel negotiations leading up to a summit in Hong Kong later this autumn. The agricultural negotiations are just one of them – and are often linked to the negotiations on trade in industrial goods (NAMA) and in services (GATS). Both the EU and the US have made it clear that they will not allow more food into their markets unless poorer countries lower tariffs on industrial goods and open up their markets to efficient Western service providers.

This link puts poor countries under duress, and it does not make the situation any easier for agricultural negotiations to divide developing countries themselves.

A strong moral appeal

Here in Norway, Norwegian Church Aid has come out strongly with views that have a strong moral appeal: Now Norway must stop being the worst in the world when it comes to food protectionism. We must lower food tariffs and reduce support for agriculture so that poor farmers can sell us more of the food we eat.

Unge Høyre has so far been most out with such appeals, but has support from most of the right-wing side – and indirect support from all Norwegian export industries.

Assumptions that do not hold

But this appeal rests on assumptions that do not hold. If WTO negotiations end up with more imports of food into Norway, poor developing countries will not benefit most from it. The big winners are major agricultural exporters such as the EU, USA, Canada, Australia and Brazil.

In 2002, we bought food from. . .

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