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WTO | 2023 News items

Members also discussed two written submissions by Egypt and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP Group) on the thematic elements of the work programme. They thanked the outgoing coordinator, Marcel Vernooij of the Netherlands, for his chairmanship of the Committee on Agriculture as well as leading the discussions on the food security work programme. Mr Kjetil Tysdal of Norway has been appointed as the new chair of the committee and coordinator of the work programme.

Coordinator’s Report

Presenting his report to members,  Mr Vernooj said: “The purpose of my suggestions is to sharpen your discussions post-August to enable you to harvest tangible outcomes from the very rich debates and conversations we have had under the work programme.” 

Members welcomed the report and said it is a good basis for further work after the summer break on finalizing a set of agreed recommendations under the work programme.

They emphasized the need for balance between short-term immediate actions to respond to emergencies and long-term resilience-building efforts. They supported the emphasis in the report on agricultural resilience and also underlined the importance of addressing financing challenges faced by LDCs and NFIDCs. Members also discussed the role of flexibilities for LDCs and NFIDCs in bolstering production and resilience.

They discussed the need for enhanced transparency on international and regional food trade and markets, streamlining of WTO transparency requirements on international food aid, and maintaining a balance between the import and export dimensions of the proposed recommendations.

Some members also emphasized that the scope of recommendations should fall under the remit of the regular agriculture committee. Several members also referred to the recent abrupt interruption of the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the associated implications for global food security.

New submissions

Egypt shared its reflections on the coordinator’s report, highlighting areas where it would prefer additional elements or flexibilities regarding “access to international food markets”, “financing of food imports” and “agricultural and production resilience”. 

Egypt considered that exempting LDCs and NFIDCs from export restrictions should be a “general rule of thumb”. It proposed establishing a framework within the WTO on coordination and assessment of food aid and suggested establishing dedicated financing mechanisms for food-importing countries.  Egypt also argued for an all-encompassing approach to tackle food security, which would embrace “long-term development assistance, short-term solutions, and trade-related flexibilities”.  

The ACP Group emphasized the need for several specific actions, including the simplification and harmonization of cross-border regulations and transparency on regional and global food trade. They also underlined the need for access to well-designed food import financing facilities and instruments, maintenance of global food security stocks, and responsible import and export actions during food shortages. In addition, they emphasized the importance of reversing declining trends in disbursements of official development assistance (ODA) and reliance on quantitative commitments on food aid under the Food Assistance Convention to ensure adequacy of food aid during global price increases.

Members expressed their interest in examining the new submissions while flagging the practical constraints in putting into practice some of the ideas in the two submissions within the WTO framework. The two submissions, along with the report by the coordinator, will be further considered after the summer break.

Workshop on seeds development and green revolution

The Republic of Korea, in collaboration with other members, organized a workshop on 19 July on  seeds development and green revolution, with the aim of contributing to the ongoing discussions under the food security work programme. The workshop was well attended by international organizations, international development banks, experts and research institutions working in the area of seed development and the private sector. Some members also shared their experiences and challenges in the domain of seed development and green revolution.

The critical importance of investing in the latest plant breeding technologies and accessibility to and adoption of high-yield seed varieties by farmers for achieving sustainable agriculture production and food security were highlighted by several speakers. Some experts also emphasized the importance of regulatory cooperation across countries and regions for seed development and trade.

Next steps

Mr Vernooij reminded members about the end-November 2023 target for concluding the work programme and arriving at agreed recommendations. He said that the new coordinator, Kjetil Tysdal of Norway, would be fully briefed on the latest discussions to ensure a smooth transition. The next working group meeting, scheduled for 21 September, will be facilitated by the new coordinator. 


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