Honourable members, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for the invitation to be here with you today. I am happy to have this opportunity to engage with you directly on The impact of the CAP on Developing Countries.
Broadly, the message I want to convey today is that the CAP of 2018 is a pro-development policy; it is more modern and in many ways more self-aware of its impact, both at home and abroad. Today's CAP reflects the understanding that we are part of a globalised world and embraces the challenges facing us.
(Impact of CAP outside EU)
One of the more persistent myths about the common agricultural policy is that it discriminates against farmers in the developing world by supporting 'uncompetitive' European agriculture.
The reality is that this has long since disappeared: EU wine lakes and butter mountains are in the distant past, and our farm policy has been in line with the EU's development objectives for many years.
Market measures are still permitted, it is true – but only in the case of crisis, and even then price support for farmers is set at levels that are generally well below normal market conditions, reducing EU surpluses and bringing us more into line with global prices.
Export refunds ceased to exist on 1 January 2014 and the EU was the main driving force behind the WTO decision in December 2015 to scrap all trade-distorting export subsidies.
In fact, one of my proudest achievements to date as Commissioner was the huge effort which both Commissioner Malmstrom and I made to persuade the rest of the developed world to make this step-change.
Of course, this is all part of the Commission's agenda to promote multilateralism and advocate for open and rules based trade.
We have extremely favourable market access conditions for countries across the developing world. The EU gives duty-free and quota-free access to all Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and unilateral concessions to developing countries
We have developed Economic Partnership Agreements – trade agreements – that were carefully crafted to allow partner countries to protect their sensitive agricultural products from liberalisation, either by excluding them entirely or by allowing robust safeguards that can be used to guard against sudden increases in imports.
This point I believe addresses a point raised by the Burkina Faso producer earlier on – I want to underline that, under the Economic Partnership Agreements, it is the full sovereign decision of the Burkina Faso government to set the tariff rate on EU imports. As Burkina Faso has yet to ratify its Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, I would urge it do so in order to exercise these opportunities, should it so wish.
For example, the Burkina Faso Government could set a tariff at such a rate as to foster the further development of its domestic dairy sector. I would encourage Mr Diallo to make this point to his government. However, I also understand that Governments may choose to keep a low import tariff for food security reasons. But that is their sovereign decision. On the other hand, the EU has agreed to "unilaterally disarm" – we are not allowed to impose tariffs on products from least developed countries.
The EU is the world's largest importer of agricultural products from Least Developed Countries (€3.5 billion in 2017, more than US, Russia, China, Japan and Canada together).
We are stepping up our work on agriculture and rural development policy cooperation in UN and other international fora, such as G7 and G20, where the EU approach is often seen as a role model for the way in which it embeds sustainable agriculture practices all across Europe, and maintains livelihoods in rural areas.
(Agenda 2030 – SDGs – COP21)
We are also leading from the front when it comes to the climate and environment, working with our global partners - including those in developing countries - to tackle the greatest challenge of our time.
The Communication on The Future of Food and Farming adopted last November contains many relevant reflections on how the future CAP can do so:
A clear commitment to achieving an agricultural contribution to the EU's international commitments;
A clear commitment to global food security through resilient, competitive and sustainable production, while maintaining market orientation as a key principle;
A clear commitment to enhanced environmental and climate;
A clear commitment to a balanced trade agenda;
And a clear indication that the future CAP must play a larger role in implementing the outcome of the Valetta Summit, addressing the root causes of migration.
(Addressing the Root Causes of Migration)
I would like to elaborate on this last point, as it is a crucially important one.
Migration is today one of the highest priorities in EU relations with our key partners. It is our strong conviction that by working together, we can find solutions that replace irregular and uncontrolled flows with safe and managed pathways.
And together we must also look at the deep-seated challenges that lie at the root of irregular migration.
Of course when it comes to addressing the root causes of migration we are not starting from scratch:
The EU and its Member States remain the largest global provider of development assistance – up to €75,5 billion in 2016) .
Much of this assistance is designed to boost our partner’s economy and give young people a chance to stay in their countries of origin.
I have already mentioned the positive impact of out extremely favourable market access conditions for Least Developed Countries and Developing Countries.
And thirdly, the External Investment Plan (EIP) is part of the EU's drive to foster investment in Africa.
As you know there will be a specific window under EIP for agriculture and agribusiness.
This is not a coincidence: rural areas are key for economic development in Africa and crucial in relation to providing decent jobs for the increasing population of young Africans.
It is also a priority of the African Union to transform their agricultural sector in order to unlock its potential to help feed and employ an increasing population. They recognise the need to modernise and invest in agriculture to help absorb a rapidly increasing workforce. This will help to develop the supply side capacity and strengthen the competitiveness of African agriculture, including, for instance, support for the mini dairies of Burkina Faso, as previously mentioned today.
We need to step up our support for developing these opportunities in a sustainable way.
This is the reason why I have engaged in an ongoing policy dialogue with the African Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs Sacko, and with African Agriculture Ministers since 2016.
We are re-thinking our traditional development cooperation models and, beyond our development assistance and trade relations, we are now focusing on targeting policy support, fostering investments in rural areas and supporting agro-industries in Africa, with the involvement of the private sector.
The challenge is enormous but so are the opportunities! We need to make out-migration in Africa more of a choice than a necessity for young people.
(Rural Africa Task Force)
To address these and other issues, agriculture was high on the agenda of the 5th AU - EU in late November 2017 and in the "Abidjan Action Plan".
I am very proud that African and European leaders have acknowledged that cooperation in agriculture will be crucial for a sustainable future.
We have a very good cooperation with our African Union partners and we jointly organised the African Union – EU Agriculture Ministers conference last July in Rome, which was flagged as a good "example of engagement with Africa as partners".
All these successful events last year inspired me to harness this momentum and move a step forward: working closely with Commissioner Mimica, I asked my Directorate General, working in tandem with DG DEVCO, to set up an expert task force to advise and come up with recommendations on priorities and next steps in our cooperation with Africa.
The overall objective of the Africa Task Force is to look at job-creating economic development in agriculture, agri-business and agro-industries.
The idea is to bring together ten to eleven experts on agriculture, agri-business, finance, research and sustainable production to meet regularly in Brussels and to prepare a report by the end of this year.
I want them to do this in close cooperation with the African Union.
I am pleased to announce that the call for applications is now open. Experts will be asked to apply and will serve in their own personal capacity, not as representatives of organisations.
I believe we have to go beyond the development aid model. We have a unique opportunity to show that policy exchange and cooperation in agriculture works and provides for jobs and income opportunities.
I want agriculture to be among the first sectors where we have a successful policy dialogue between the two continents.
In conclusion, dear colleagues, I hope I have made it clear that we are going beyond “business as usual” when dealing with the developing world.
We are re-thinking our traditional development cooperation models and going beyond our development assistance and trade relations to focus more on ‘investments and policy dialogue’.
We need to address the issues that really matters in relation to underdevelopment in African agriculture.
Let me repeat very clearly that the CAP is not one of these issues!
It is in fact about a long period of underinvestment in this sector in Africa; and it is about structural shortcomings, which EU assistance is trying to help overcome.
But of course more funding and investment is required. Private sector investments can help, and we need to ramp up the transfer of knowledge and technology.
There is an opportunity to unleash the potential of African agriculture to provide food and jobs for an increasing young population. I am satisfied that the European Commission is showing real leadership by engaging with Africa as partners and in pushing hard to mobilise ‘responsible’ investments from both the private and public sector.
I count on the support of this house to help us continue moving in the right direction. Thank you.