FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2012
Food Security Requires National Efforts and International Coordination
Washington, DC—The International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank May 17 and 18 to host prominent thinkers from government, the private sector, civil society and academia at a two-day seminar on Food Security and Trade in the Asia-Pacific & LAC Region. IDB Vice President Santiago Levy emphasized the large and varied make-up of the region, which encompasses agricultural powerhouses and net food importers, populations with rising incomes and transforming diets, alongside subsistence agriculture and urban poor, and pointed to the impressive growth of agricultural exports from the Latin American region to Asia.
There is widespread agreement that global food security requires sound and sustained investment in agricultural research and development and physical infrastructure, as well as poverty alleviation, which is strongly correlated to agricultural growth in poor, rural areas. In his keynote address, the Honorable Tim Groser, New Zealand’s Minister of Trade and Minister for Climate Change Issues, stated: “The issue of ‘food poverty’ is fundamentally an income, not an agriculture production problem. Singapore has no farms. As far as we know nobody starves in Singapore.”
IPC Chairman Carlo Trojan emphasized that trade should also be seen as an integral part of national and global food security strategies. An open and non-distorted trade system for food and agriculture facilitates economies of scale and efficiencies and ensures that food can flow from areas of surplus to areas of deficit production.
Speakers recognized, however, that faith in trade and markets was badly shaken during recent food price spikes, given in particular the imposition of export restrictions that only served to further exacerbate price shocks. Participants called for more meaningful rules to provide greater supply assurances in the multilateral trade rule book or in regional efforts. Peter Timmer, professor emeritus at Harvard University, also argued that national and regional food reserves can play an important role in building greater trust in international trade.
Political leaders were urged to keep food security at the top of their agendas, given the unacceptable levels of hunger and malnutrition and the link between food insecurity and political instability and national security. APEC leaders meeting in Russia on May 30-31st should prioritize food security efforts and strongly endorse the newly instituted Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS) as APEC’s key food security body. U.S. APEC senior official Ambassador Hans Klemm emphasized the unique structure of the PPFS, which brings together government and private sector representatives. Emery Koenig, Cargill executive vice president and chief risk officer referred to the PPFS as “an excellent forum for arriving at effective policies to ensure food security, and discouraging policies that interfere with markets, remove price signals to farmers and create standards that inhibit trade and investment in food and agriculture.”
Governments should prioritize food security efforts, but the private sector also has a crucial role to play. Panelists spoke about the invaluable contribution made by agricultural producers, in particular when they have access to high quality agricultural inputs and transparent market information.
However, governments need to work to create partnerships so that these benefits reach smallholder farmers. Cooperation between governments and the private sector can greatly amplify the respective strengths they can each bring to the food security agenda. Emphasizing that “science provides universal answers, but we must find local solutions to increase food security,” James C. Borel, DuPont executive vice president stated, “the local innovation we need will only come through robust collaborations between public and private sectors and those closest to the challenge being addressed.”
Given the importance of trade to food security, regional trade agreements were also discussed, with special focus on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. In his keynote address, Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, USTR Chief Agricultural Negotiator stated: “TPP partners in the negotiations are discussing how to ensure trade and development are inclusive. We are working together to…help both developed and developing economies meet the obligations of a high-standard agreement.” Whereas the Trans Pacific Partnership has been heralded as a “21st century agreement,” for tackling new issues, such as the digital economy, speakers emphasized that it should also encompass a comprehensive approach to food and agricultural trade liberalization. As Minister Groser said, selling an FTA “...chock full of permanent exceptions for agriculture would be like trying to sell a 1997 Palm Pilot to a Californian digital native. It is not going to work.”
The balancing act between reaching an ambitious TPP agreement, while also being open to potential new members, was referred to by several speakers, who cautioned that the emergence of competing trade blocks should be avoided. It would be positive if progress within the TPP and on APEC’s trade agenda could serve to revitalize the Doha Trade Round negotiations, yet some expressed concern that a lack of political will could make consensus on difficult points in the TPP negotiations as difficult to reach as at the multilateral level.
The agenda and presentations made at the seminar are available at http://www.agritrade.org/events/FoodSecurityandTradeinAsiaPacific.html
About the International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council
The International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) promotes a more open and equitable global food system by pursuing pragmatic trade and development policies in food and agriculture to meet the world’s growing needs. IPC convenes influential policymakers, agribusiness executives, farm leaders, and academics from developed and developing countries to clarify complex issues, build consensus, and advocate policies to decision-makers. More information on the organization and its membership can be found on our website:
For media inquiries, please contact Katharine Shaw at 202-328-5117 or shaw[at]agritrade[dot]org.