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G20 agriculture meeting

Published on June 27, 2011
Speech by Bruno Le Maire, Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Rural Affairs and Town and Country Planning (Regional Development), during the press conference following the G20 agriculture ministers’ meeting

Paris, June 23, 2011

There are days when you feel happy and shouldn’t hide the fact; well, today is a happy day. Indeed I’m happy to announce to you that the G20 member states concluded an agreement this morning on a food price volatility and global agriculture action plan.

This agreement, we shouldn’t hide the fact, is a tour de force for the international community. It enables us to go on believing in the power of solidarity and working together to resolve the major issues facing the planet, such as the future of global agriculture. When, about a year ago, President Sarkozy put the issues of world food price volatility and agriculture on the table, his proposal, let’s be frank, was greeted with some scepticism. Well, President Sarkozy, G20 president, was right, we were able to get an agreement on this essential issue. I believe this is a message of optimism, a message of the future being sent to the whole international community, which has experienced a number of failures in multilateral negotiations but scored a real success this morning.

With this agreement, we’re laying the foundations of a new global agriculture. An agriculture which will be sustainable, a mutually-supportive agriculture, and one whose markets will be regulated.
This agreement, I’m keen to say, isn’t especially a victory for the G20 as such. It’s primarily a victory for the whole international community, a victory for the international organizations who from the outset have been involved in each stage of the negotiations on this action plan, who at every stage made their contribution, brought their expertise and enabled us to find the way to an agreement.

This agreement is also a victory for all the states which were able to demonstrate a sense of responsibility faced with these challenges and transcend their national interests to build a global collective interest.
Finally, it’s a victory for a method of negotiation: an open, direct method of negotiation. This negotiation, lasting nearly 11 months, has been tough and, I’ll tell you, it had a soul. It wasn’t based only on issues of direct national interest to the states, it took account of the absolute necessity of fighting world hunger and ending this scandal of world hunger affecting hundreds of millions of people. From this point of view, the agreement we concluded this morning is also a victory against world hunger, a victory for agricultural workers and every farmer on the planet.

As we were hoping and as President Sarkozy had said from the start of the negotiation, this plan includes concrete, clear, ambitious decisions.

As President Sarkozy pointed out yesterday, we were unable to agree to a plan which would make do with declarations of principle. We had made an imperative of the negotiation – I had the opportunity of saying this to a number of you – the absolute necessity of having concrete, clear, ambitious decisions.

Concrete, clear, ambitious decisions, first of all, on increasing global agricultural production. Every G20 member, every international organization agreed to recognize that we had to increase global food production to feed the population properly by 2050 and do so straight away. We recalled the financial commitments made by the G20 member states, particularly in the framework of the L’Aquila summit, and the need to honour them. To increase agricultural production, we took a concrete initiative on increasing productivity, on sequencing the wheat genome in particular.

Apart from agricultural production, we also took concrete, clear, ambitious decisions on the transparency of agricultural markets. Greater transparency on agricultural markets will mean less price volatility. Greater transparency on agricultural markets will mean the market operating more smoothly for farmers but also consumers, who are tired of fluctuating food prices. So we’re very swiftly going to establish an international database showing agricultural commodity production, consumption and stocks. This database, called AMIS, will be brought in as soon as possible. It will benefit from every G20 member’s technical support. It will have an international remit. It will be set up in the framework of the FAO and will be for the benefit of everyone, be they members of the G20 or not. In addition to this, a satellite monitoring system will be established, making it possible to pool satellite images showing agricultural production and also take account of the effects of climate change on global agricultural production.

Our concrete, clear, ambitious decisions are not just about agricultural production and productivity, not just about transparency, but also about improving coordination between the G20 members’ responses. We decided to stop accepting unilateral responses when a producer state faces a drought, a flood or a specific problem. We wanted to establish coordination mechanisms enabling us to take joint decisions on tailored responses in the event of a dramatic fall in production in this or that country. So we’ll establish a rapid response mechanism at the level of the G20 members, to be based within the FAO. This rapid response mechanism will comprise high-level G20 representatives, enable us to take decisions as quickly as possible in the event of a fall in production in one of the member states or big producer states, and enable us to consult each other and respond collectively where previously we’ve got into the bad habit of responding individually. Any decisions in the event of a crisis will, from now on, be taken in the framework of this rapid response mechanism.

Our concrete, clear, ambitious decisions are also about protecting the developing countries, because they are the worst hit by agricultural price volatility. It’s the developing countries that suffer most when we have dramatic rises in agricultural prices around the world. When these agricultural prices increase by 30% or 50%, or when they double, in the case of wheat – as occurred last year – it’s an economic problem for the developed countries, but it’s a matter of life and death for the developing countries. So we have a moral responsibility, which we’ve accepted, to provide concrete solutions. We therefore made a commitment – for the first time at international community level – to abolish all export restrictions for global food aid. This commitment to abolish all export restrictions for global food aid is a totally new commitment that adds to the existing measures on imports.

We also made a commitment to turn this political agreement into a legal obligation in the framework of the WTO, and we’re going to start working on it. This too is an entirely new factor in the life of the international community.

Finally, concrete, clear, ambitious decisions on production, transparency, coordination and the defence of the developing countries, but equally on financial regulation. We wanted financial regulation to feature in the French presidency’s agricultural action plan. It’s in there, and it’s also in there together with clear and verifiable commitments.
At the level of the G20 member states, we all recognize the need for regulated agricultural markets. We all recognize the need to establish new rules for the operation of agricultural commodity markets. We all recognize the need to combat abuses of the market and cross-manipulation between financial and agricultural commodity markets. So we’re strongly encouraging the finance ministers to make progress along this path of regulation, and we’re making concrete proposals that feature in the action plan, like the ex-ante position limits that are explicitly mentioned in the action plan on agricultural price volatility and global agriculture.

We also wanted each of these concrete commitments to have guaranteed follow-up, so we took the decision to ensure these decisions were followed up, and we wanted to recommend keeping agriculture on the G20’s agenda, in the belief that the success of these initial negotiations showed they were a point of departure and not of arrival, that we’d laid the foundations of this new world agriculture and that we must of necessity continue along that path in the years to come.

Those are the few points I wanted to convey to you this morning. On a more personal note, I must tell you that this year of negotiations has been an extremely exciting year for the French agriculture ministry, and I must say I’m very happy this agreement has been reached between G20 member states, because it’s an agreement made for the benefit of the entire international community and, in particular, the poorest countries on the planet.

Thank you, everyone./.

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