Farmers, CSOs reject accord

While the Cairns ministerial conference was drawing to an end on the 18th of April 2007, over 120 farmers and civil society organisations signed a memorandum rejecting the potential agreement by the Cairns Group and termed it anti-farmer and anti-Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference, representatives of the Sustainable Agriculture Action Group (SAAG) — a conglomerate of 25 farmer and civil society organisations — said: "Secretive talks and efforts to reach an agreement over and above farmers head would be unacceptable to any sane Pakistani."

"The civil society organisations condemn the secret Cairns Group’s meeting in Lahore. The Australian representative, who dominated the proceedings, kept the deliberations so secret that he did not even share agenda of the meeting with participating officials of the ministries of commerce and agriculture. This attitude itself does not augur well for farmers and no one knows what the government of Pakistan is trying to achieve by excluding people of Pakistan from the negotiation process," they lamented.

They said the government was blindly following the export agenda, without realising its effects on small farmers. India, which is much bigger an exporter of farm commodities, is putting up much more stronger and spirited resistance than Pakistan.

The government of Pakistan should shrug off pressure from the developed world and desist from blindly following their interests at the cost its farmers. Instead, it should protect the interest of its own people, they demanded and added: "It should always analyse every proposals in the light of its own interest and then decide to follow or reject it, rather than accepting every suggestion coming from the developed world. Such habit may be good politics, but it is certainly very bad economics and sociology."

The CSOs rejected any outcome of the Cairns Group Ministerial meeting and issued their declaration.