Why cover Cancun on NewFarm.org?

By Greg Bowman, on-line editor

September 5, 2003: NewFarm.org teams up with experts from Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy to present deep background and fresh reporting on the many issues that will be shaped by the World Trade Organization's (WTO) negotiations at Cancun.

Farmers of all shapes and sizes feel the impact of globalized agricultural trade. The WTO, formed in 1995, meets semi-regularly to negotiate a universal trade policy that will effect all member countries and their citizens. Decisions about global trade – in agriculture and beyond, from water rights to biotechnology patents to fair trade – center within the World Trade Organization.

The WTO’s next round of discussions will be next week in Cancun, Mexico. This Fifth Ministerium will take up contentious, unresolved trade issues from the past and address new agenda items. Choices made Sept. 10-14 will profoundly shape the rights of multinational corporations, ag production and marketing policies, and family farming opportunities around the world.

NewFarm.org editors want to present the issues and the news from the WTO at Cancun. Because we’re busy in Kutztown PA expanding this site – and because we recognize ag trade experts when we see them – we’re partnering with the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy (IATP) for our primary Cancun coverage– though we’ll also draw on other sources for news, analysis and opinion.

The IATP (http://www.iatp.org/) promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy. Through research, reports, data collection and collaborations, the IATP helps to create new opportunities for sustainable agriculture. IATP works extensively with grassroots farmer, environmental and rural development groups worldwide that make up parts of the global “civil society” movement.

"The WTO faces a critical test in Cancun," said IATP President Mark Ritchie. "It has largely failed to act in the interests of farmers and workers around the world. Frustration is rising both inside the WTO, among member countries, and outside in the form of civil society. The Cancun meeting will be a benchmark to see how responsive the WTO will be to this movement for more fair trade rules."

Thanks to the long and intimate experience of IATP with the WTO, NewFarm.org will be able to present background on the major agricultural issues at Cancun, along with how they affect nations and farmer groups differently. During the meetings we will present daily news updates and profiles of participating farmers and grass-roots organizations. We will sort out what really happened after Cancun returns to its tourist haven mode in the days following the event, sketching the new economic and trade environment for sustainable agriculture.

Much is at stake for the abilities of nations to support their farmers, and the rights of farmers to market their products to preserve uniqueness of place and how the products are raised. NewFarm.org and IATP will bring you the WTO news that matters most in the weeks ahead. Meet the experts at IATP who will be providing our news coverage and analysis.

More background information

• For in-depth background study, consult IATP’s online archives. A series of six issue analysis papers is available at www.tradeobservatory.org in the box titled “What is at stake in Cancun?” These papers outline items for negotiations in the areas of U.S. commodity “dumping” on foreign markets, agricultural trade in general, services (with impacts of ag), intellectual property rights, water rights, and the overall WTO decision-making and implementation processes.
• The IATP web site presents a number of ways to access IATP coverage of Cancun and related issues. One of these is the Bridges Weekly Trade Digest. To access the Digest, click on News Bulletins in the top toolbar at www.tradeobservatory.org.
• For daily audio news updates on Internet radio check www.radiocancun.org.