WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A plan by G8 industrial countries to boost food security through increased farming investment is important and timely, and should not only focus on production but also on addressing hunger and malnutrition, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on Tuesday.
Zoellick, speaking by telephone from Geneva, said the World Bank has discussed the setting up of an agricultural fund to invest in developing countries with a number of G8 countries but the idea was still being refined.
“I’m hopeful there will be a critical mass to move forward on this idea in some form,” Zoellick said in an interview ahead of a summit of leaders from the Group of Eight and four major developing powers in Italy starting on Wednesday.
Drafts of the G8 pact have said leaders will agree to mobilize billions of dollars for agricultural investment, with the United States ready to give $3-4 billion over a multi-year period.
Zoellick pointed to estimates last year from the International Food Policy Research Institute which said total global annual agricultural investment requirements amounted to $14.3 billion for all developing countries.
Zoellick said when he arrives at the summit he will urge leaders to follow through on earlier pledges of aid for developing countries hit by the global financial crisis.
He said he would also urge them to be open to increasing resources for the World Bank and regional development banks, which are facing increasing demand for loans.
In the interview, Zoellick warned of rising trade protectionism around the globe and he called on the leaders participating in this week’s talks to commit to concluding the Doha global trade talks by 2010.
The G8 comprises the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and Russia. China, Brazil, India and South Africa are also participating in the summit.
“What would be helpful coming out of all these meetings, not just the G8, is for leaders to really try to commit to a close in 2010,” Zoellick said.
“The elements are there and with the sounds coming out of the new Indian government that is a positive sign,” he added.
India’s new trade minister Anand Sharma said last month that India was determined to reach a deal in the long-running Doha round and that patient negotiation could narrow remaining gaps.
Zoellick said World Bank monitoring had found an increase in trade restrictions and subsidies, and he noted unfair trade and anti-dumping cases at the World Trade Organization have been rising.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Andrea Ricci