In a speech before the World Trade Organization Public Forum 2006 today in Geneva, United Nations Foundation Chairman Ted Turner urged negotiators to revive the stalled “Doha Round” of trade talks. He proposed a creative new idea to restart global trade talks, which have broken down over the issue of agricultural subsidies. Turner called for using agricultural resources to produce biofuels, as a strategy for eradicating poverty, supplying global transportation needs, and breaking the current trade deadlock.
The November 2001 declaration of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, provides the mandate for negotiations on a range of subjects. The “Doha Round” negotiations, which include those on agriculture and services, are stalled today.
Urging the WTO to restart the negotiations, Turners said, “At the gym where I used to box there was a sign on the wall that said, fight one more round. No matter how bloody and exhausted you are fight one more round. If you’re always willing to fight one more round, you’re never beaten. I am asking you all to fight one more round – this Doha Round.”
“If we give up on Doha, we’re giving up on fighting poverty,” Turner said. “We have to go for the long-term gains we’ll get from building a world where every country participates. The more countries participate in the global economy, the more they will have an incentive to build a better world – and the more they will have the capacity to build a better world.”
“The Doha Round is stalled because rich countries and poor countries are split on the question of agriculture subsidies,” Turner said. “If agriculture were always going to be the same, then the question of subsidies would be a problem without a solution. But agriculture is changing.”
“Farmers have always grown crops for food and fiber. Today, farmers can grow crops for food, fuel and fiber. The global demand for biofuels is huge and rising. That’s why I’m confident that in the near future, farmers’ incomes will be assured, not by subsidies and tariffs, but by market forces. And that’s why it makes so little sense to throw away the Doha Round over agricultural subsidies and tariffs. We shouldn’t give up a great future to cling to the past.”
“If farmers see that agriculture is changing, and see how that change can benefit them, the politics of subsidies changes. This change is crucial to reviving the Doha Round and getting an agreement,” Turner said.
“Developed countries should agree to phase out tariffs and reduce their subsidies for food and fiber crops and replace them with support for biofuels. Developing countries also need to do their part by reducing tariffs and opening their markets – especially to each other.”
Investing in biofuels is also an “opportunity to do something for the earth and humanity. Biofuels can dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions and are renewable,” he added.
“By investing in biofuels, [developing countries] can produce their own domestic transportation fuels, cut their energy costs, improve public health, create new jobs in the rural economy, and ultimately, build export markets,” said Turner.
“If we revive Doha and get a strong agreement, we can immediately increase incomes in the poorest countries of the world. There is nothing we could that would strike a quicker, wider blow against global poverty. If you’re against poverty, you’re for a strong Doha agreement,” said Turner.
The UN Foundation was created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities. The UN Foundation builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and also works to broaden support for the UN through advocacy and public outreach.
One of the UN Foundation’s areas of focus is energy and climate change. Its International Biofuels Initiative promotes the sustainable production and use of biofuels in developing countries, under conditions that can attract foreign and domestic investment. Biofuels are liquid fuels made from biomass (plants and trees), and include biodiesel for trucks or generators and ethanol for cars or cooking. A domestic biofuels industry can create good jobs, increase income in rural areas, and reduce the need for costly imports of foreign oil.
The Initiative will assess biofuels potential within developing countries and work with national decision-makers and private-sector groups, including NGOs and civil society groups, to develop country-specific strategies for the production and use of biofuels.
The Initiative is supported by the UN Foundation and is being undertaken in partnership with five UN agencies working in coordination:
• United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
• Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
• United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
• United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
• United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
For more information about the United Nations Foundation or to listen to Ted Turner’s podcast speech, visit www.unfoundation.org.