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Azevêdo: Food security is of paramount importance to all members

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, on 31 May, opened a Workshop on “Delivering Development in the 11th Ministerial Conference” aimed at looking at the roles of public stockholding and the Special Safeguard Mechanism in achieving food security. In his opening address to the workshop, organized by the G33 group of developing countries in agriculture negotiations, he stressed that trade has an impact on all dimensions of food security, and WTO members must explore how trade can contribute to making nutritious food available to those in need. He also stressed the need for greater urgency in advancing these issues. This is what he said:

Thank you, Ambassador Kleib.   

Good morning everyone. I am very pleased to be here to open this workshop. This is an opportunity to look more closely at Public Stockholding and the Special Safeguard Mechanism, and their respective roles in achieving food security. 

·First, the workshop is about an issue that is of high importance to all WTO members – namely food security;

·Second, it is yet another acknowledgement of the importance of trade in achieving food security;  and

·Third, it highlights the value members place on transparency in taking the negotiations forward.

Given that MC11 is almost around the corner, I should add that this is also a very timely event.

Food security, as I have said, is of paramount importance to all members.

At the Ministerial Conference in Bali, ministers took important steps to improve food security by adopting the interim solution to the public stockholding issue. They also gave us a clear mandate to find a permanent solution to the public stockholding issue by the end of this year.   

In Nairobi, ministers reconfirmed this mandate and instructed members to tackle the issue in the dedicated sessions and in an accelerated timeframe. However, while a number of dedicated sessions have been held, I believe that more and faster progress is needed. I see this workshop as an important step in the search for a permanent solution by the end of the year.

In Nairobi, ministers also recognized the right of developing country members to have recourse to a Special Safeguard Mechanism, which is also to be negotiated in dedicated sessions. 

Ministers agreed that officials should prioritize work in areas where results have not been achieved. 

However, in the case of public stockholding – as in several other areas – not much progress has been made given the divergent views of WTO members. 

I hope that this workshop will provide additional information that would help to address the concerns expressed by the non-proponents and to narrow the gaps between the positions of members.   

Transparency is one of the fundamental principles of the WTO – it is key to building trust and helping to make informed decisions. 

Transparency can therefore be crucial in shifting members from their entrenched positions and providing an impetus for new ideas on how to address the relevant issues. This is an area where we cannot afford to ignore the legitimate concerns of all members.  

But let’s not forget that food security is not a zero sum game – all members have a stake in this. 

Given this reality, food security is best achieved through collective action. This is the logic behind the Sustainable Development Goals that have called upon the entire world – through Goal 2 – to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

At this juncture, it is worth recalling that one of the targets for Goal 2 calls for correcting and preventing distortions in world agricultural markets, including the elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies.

As you are well aware, ministers adopted a decision in Nairobi on this very point, mandating the elimination of export subsidies for agricultural products and restraining export measures with an equivalent effect.

This was a major contribution to the SDGs, but of course more needs to be done. 

Trade has an impact on all four dimensions of food security: food availability, access to food, utilization, and stability over time.

So we must explore how trade can contribute to making nutritious food available to those in need, and to providing people with enough income to access this food where and when needed.

A successful outcome in Buenos Aires would constitute another significant step in the quest to effectively address the food security issue on a global scale. So let’s keep working with a sense of urgency.

I wish you very fruitful discussions and am looking forward to the outcomes of this workshop.

Thank you.

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