C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
Secretary General Don MacKinnon in Calgary
July 13, 2006
The Secretary General backed by grazing cattle in the Alberta Foothills
The Secretary General of the Commonwealth, His Excellency Don MacKinnon was in Calgary, Canada, to open the 22nd Commonwealth Agricultural Conference on 13 July 2006, 'Market Expectations for Food -- and Farming Realities'. The biennial conferences, organized by the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth, aim to build a greater knowledge of the immense range of agriculture in the Commonwealth and the marketing opportunities for farm products among its 53 member countries. Issues on the agenda include scientific advances in cereal production and livestock farming; market trends and the development of new markets; as well as farming in Canada and Africa. (CNIS 293)
CAM's Secretary General, Lois Irvine, was contacted by his staff and was honoured to be able to take Mr. MacKinnon and two of his staff members on a short drive into the agricultural area south of Calgary which is primarily noted for its beef cattle ranching. This borders on and is intermixed with cereal crop production. Irvine noted that, "It was a beautiful day to display Alberta's ranching country and a true reflection of the informal and non-bureaucratic side of the Commonwealth."
The Secretary General and staff in touch with some Quarter Horses at the Irvine home
In addressing the meeting itself, the Secretary General was discussing agricultural aspects of "fair trade". This issue affects developing countries greatly and is relevant to GCAM and Malawi's proposed exhibit on "Poverty and the Malawian Child" because trade barriers, subsidies and regulations are a contributing factor in poverty continuance and reduction.
Below is an excerpt from CNIS 294
(Commonwealth News and Information Service).
In a speech delivered at the opening of the 22nd Commonwealth Agricultural Conference in Calgary, Canada, on 13 July 2006, Mr. McKinnon expressed hope of greater progress in the Doha Round of world trade talks following the massive gains already made through greater access to cheaper antiretroviral drugs; a deadline for the end of the worst European Union agricultural subsidies; and a commitment to end US cotton export subsidies.
He added that the poorest of poor countries are also getting almost unfettered access into the markets of developed countries, but more must be done to remove all barriers to trade. The Secretary-General stressed that it was important to dismantle the current artificial trade and agricultural pricing structure which amounts to trade apartheid.
"How can the US spend more on subsidizing its cotton farmers than the entire GDP of a country like Benin which produces mainly cotton? How can West African farmers sell their own tomatoes if surplus and subsidized Italian ones are being 'dumped' in local markets at a considerably lesser price?" asked Mr McKinnon.
He also questioned why Ghana is only able to export cocoa pods to Europe but not processed chocolate.
"Why should the EU's tariffs on meat coming from outside the Union stand at 300 per cent -- 100 times more than the 3 per cent charge on meat marketed within the EU? Do developing countries charge a 300 per cent tariff on European cars or washing machines?
"The Secretary-General said the Commonwealth has been advocating for a global and fair rules-based system under the World Trade Organization. He urged developed countries to assist developing countries by helping to lift them out of poverty through trade.
This, he said, can be achieved through investments in physical and intellectual infrastructure that facilitates agriculture in developing countries, enabling small-scale producers to capitalize on market growth opportunities in the global food industry.
"Beyond physical infrastructure, we need to invest in intellectual capital, providing training and advice to help farmers reduce production costs, improve quality, store and process their goods. We call this 'Aid for Trade' where developing countries can actually make the best of new opportunities, and play to their own 'comparative advantage'."