DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL ALAN WM. WOLFF

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I welcome the opportunity to join you today on the occasion of the General Assembly of the International Grains Trade Coalition (IGTC).

In the wake of the pandemic, WTO Members, many of whom are also active with the IGTC, re-affirmed their commitment to a fair and market-oriented trading system.

Many of these Members joined forces and showed readiness to: (i) promote international co-operation; (ii) facilitate information exchange to mitigate supply chain disruptions; (iii) and safeguard global food security through open, predictable and transparent trade.

While there were export restrictions put into place to promote food security when the spread of COVID 19 became global, many of these measures have since been rolled back.

There has been a substantial degree of adaptation to the current world we find ourselves in, a new normal of a depressed world economy and a disease that has not been conquered.  

The WTO data show that the drop in world trade was far less than was feared under even the most optimistic scenario, and the forecast is for a substantial recovery in world trade next year, although still below trend. 

Much remains uncertain, but what is certain is that  the crisis has highlighted the critical need for goverments to work not only with each other but with the business sector and wider civil society.

Owing to its specialized business and trade network, the Coalition is uniquely placed to support the WTO's efforts to improve current market and regulatory environments for agri-food products. We welcome that support.

Our efforts fall into two interrelated categories

First, WTO Members are in the process of updating current WTO rules as they relate to agriculture to meet current and future challenges. In that regard, the negotiations aim to:

  1. substantially reduce trade-distorting support;
  2. improve disciplines on export restrictions;
  3. enhance market access opportunities; and
  4. further improve export competition rules.

Second, WTO bodies and the STDF routinely examine trade matters that are of utmost relevance to grains and oilseed trade, such as progress in adopting e-phyto certification; and the digitalization of customs procedures. 

Given what is at stake, the immense benefits that would accrue to agricultural trade, we urge IGTC stakeholders to be fully engaged, consulting with their respective governments to bring the negotiations to a successful close, and to work with the WTO so that world agricultural trade continues to rise to meet global needs. 

In closing, I wish to commend the IGTC for actively contributing information on food value chains to WTO's COVID19 Trade Facilitation Repository.  Your engagement is most appreciated and valued by the WTO Members and the WTO Secretariat. 

I wish you a successful conference.

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