European Parliament vote on legislation to regulate financial markets: text falls short of what is needed to tackle food speculation

Published: 26 September 2012

Joint NGO media reaction by Oxfam; Friends of the Earth Europe; World Economy, Ecology and Development (WEED); World Development Movement

Today the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) adopted its report on the review of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID). This piece of legislation is critical to achieve stronger regulation of commodity derivative markets and limit harmful financial speculation on food.

NGOs welcome the introduction of mandatory limits on speculation but warn that a number of loopholes must be fixed to make the proposed rules effective.

Marc Olivier Herman, Oxfam’s EU policy advisor, said:

“Betting on food prices is unacceptable in a world where nearly 1 billion people are going hungry. Today’s vote shows that there is a majority in the European Parliament in favour of limiting harmful financial speculation. However the text adopted today falls short of what is needed to tackle food speculation.”

Christine Haigh, the World Development Movement’s policy officer, said:

“The text adopted today by the Economic Affairs Committee contains dangerous loopholes: an overly narrow definition of the limits to be imposed on speculation and generous exemption clauses excusing some companies from regulation. Unless these problems are fixed, harmful speculation will continue to fuel the devastating price volatility we are seeing on global food markets.”

Notes to Editors

NGOs have been advocating in favor of position limits; these cap the number of contracts in a particular commodity that can be held by a trader or group of traders, preventing concentration by the individual or group concerned. This ensures traders do not ‘corner’ markets or exert an excessive influence on prices.

The text adopted today by the ECON Committee of the European Parliament imposes limits only on net positions rather than on the amount of contracts or the open interest. Moreover the text does not require that limits apply to the entire lifetime of a derivative contract. This risks making the limits on speculation largely ineffective.

Soy and maize prices were at all-time highs in July (World Bank) and prices of cereals and vegetable oils remained at peak levels in August (FAO). Commodities markets are subject to a wide range of influences, but recent years have seen a massive shift in the level and nature of financial speculation. There is rapidly mounting evidence that this shift has exacerbated price volatility and is contributing to elevated prices.  

Next steps: the European Parliament will hold a vote on the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) in October. Negotiations are also underway in the Council on this legislation. European Finance ministers are expected to agree on their position at their meeting on November 13th at the earliest. Negotiations will then begin between the Council and the European Parliament to agree on the final version of the legislation to be adopted by both institutions.

Contact Information

Oxfam: Amy Bradshaw on + 32 (0)2 234 11 29 or amy.bradshaw@oxfaminternational.org

World Development Movement: Miriam Ross on +44 7711 875345 or miriam.ross@wdm.org.uk

Related links

Blog: The ABCDs of the global grain trade

Video: Food speculation, a matter of life and death 

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