Viewing cable 10GENEVA152, BRAZIL CRITICIZES CHINA OVER "LAND GRABS" IN AFRICA
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|10GENEVA152||2010-02-26 16:21||2011-08-30 01:44||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Mission Geneva|
VZCZCXRO4482 RR RUEHRN DE RUEHGV #0152 0571623 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 261621Z FEB 10 FM USMISSION GENEVA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0428 INFO RUEHFR/USMISSION OECD PARIS 0001 RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME 0001
UNCLAS GENEVA 000152 SENSITIVE SIPDIS E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: UNCTAD ECON SUBJECT: BRAZIL CRITICIZES CHINA OVER "LAND GRABS" IN AFRICA SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED ¶1. (SBU) Summary: At an UNCTAD meeting on investment in agriculture on February 3, China became the central focus of criticism amid a chorus of concerns about the economic, food security, environmental and social impact of large foreign purchases of agricultural lands in developing countries. Of particular note, a Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture official publicly put China on the side of "land grabbing" in developing countries. A number of countries indicated that they found China's defense unconvincing. According to other member states, discussion of FDI in agriculture may surface again at the OECD Investment Committee meeting from March 22 to 26 and the UNCTAD Investment Commission meeting from April 26-30. End Summary. BRAZIL BLASTS CHINA ¶2. (SBU) In addressing delegates from approximately 50 countries, a Ghanaian agricultural trade unionist pointed to an "ongoing land grabbing spree in Ghana and some 10 or so African countries for biofuel production activities." In turn, a Chinese Ministry of Commerce official asserted that contract farming and foreign investments in agricultural lands are based on an equal partnership between host governments and foreign investors and that large farming operations achieve economies of scale and increase agricultural productivity. The Chinese official's remarks prompted Brazil's delegate to chide China for endorsing "land grabbing." ¶3. (SBU) Privately, the Brazilian Ministry's Advisor on Foreign Investment equated China's acquisition of land and resources in Africa to "neo-colonialism" and told EconOff, "I do not want this in my country." The French delegate told EconOff that China's comments indicated no sympathy for small farmers and implied that China saw large communist-style farms at the approach for all developing nations. RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURE ¶4. (SBU) In response to a backlash against its own investors' overseas land purchases, Japan is promoting an effort by multilateral institutions to draft principles for responsible investment in agriculture. While Japan's Ambassador in Geneva held the chair for the meeting, the Japanese Economic Counselor confided that his country declined to take a more vocal "pro-business" stance in the discussion because China's remarks had stirred up so much acrimony. At the conclusion of the meeting on February 5, the Japanese Economic Counselor told the forum that the discussion had been a useful "intellectual building block" that would further multilateral discussion on how to address concerns about large investments in agricultural lands. ¶5. (SBU) Many countries continue to approach this discussion with caution. German and French delegates both told EconOff that they have not had significant complaints about the activity of their investors and do not yet have a clear sense of how multilateral guidelines could affect their interests. The Indonesian delegation notably remained silent throughout the meeting. A Thai delegate said privately that her government is reluctant to take a public stance on the issue until it uncovers the identities of investors behind large land purchases in Thailand. ¶6. (SBU) Comment: Some emerging markets and developing nations are reacting sharply to foreign investors' land purchases. U.S. investors, however, were never the subject of criticism at this meeting. Japan took extra care to manage the discussion and instead saw criticism focus on China. Brazil may see an opportunity for its leadership in addressing the concerns of African nations. End Comment. KING