DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL ALAN WM. WOLFF
I would like to begin by congratulating Ambassador Bettina Waldmann for organizing this event and Ms Cornelia Berns for the successful organization of this year’s GFFA.
As you may know — the GFFA Ministers’ Conference is the world’s largest meeting of agriculture ministers underlining the importance of this year’s Communiqué on trade.
I would also like to pay tribute to Minister Julia Klöckner for her leadership and excellent chairing of the meeting. This year’s theme on trade was particularly apposite considering that agriculture is one of the issues where many Members are seeking an outcome in NurSultan in June.
I was pleased to have had an opportunity to make an opening statement at the Ministers conference together with DG Qu of the FAO and the Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the African Union, Ms. Josefa Sacko both of whom stressed the importance of trade and its contribution to the food security of our Members.
Today we are here for a presentation on the Communiqué that was adopted by 72 Agriculture Ministers at the Berlin Agriculture Ministers’ Conference.
My intention is not to anticipate the presentation by Ms Cornelia Berns on the Communiqué but just to highlight some of the key points from the WTO perspective.
First, the Final Communiqué is very supportive of the WTO and multilateralism.
- The Ministers committed to facilitate agricultural trade by strengthening trade rules and underlined the crucial importance of the rules-based multilateral trading system.
- The Ministers also undertook to ensure the proper functioning of the WTO dispute settlement system considering its importance for agriculture trade.
- The Ministers welcomed the on-going discussions to further liberalize global agricultural trade, particularly in the domestic support pillar and committed to work constructively with other WTO Members in the lead-up to MC12, with a view to achieving a positive outcome.
Second, there were two main concerns that were repeatedly expressed during the discussions by Ministers and in the Communiqué itself. These were:
- sustainability, notably the potential impacts of agricultural production and trade on the environment), and
- fairness, notably the distributional aspects of benefits from trade.
Third, — and a very important point — is the support by the Ministers of the concept note on Digital Council For Agriculture. As you may know, Ministers at last year’s GFFA mandated the FAO together with other stakeholders — including the WTO — to develop a Concept Note for the establishment of an International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture.
The Concept Note was presented to Ministers at the GFFA this year and will now have to be presented to FAO’s governing bodies for further discussions and its formal establishment. According to the planned structure of the Digital Council, the WTO — together with other IOs — would be part of an Advisory Committee.
The establishment of the Digital Council for Food and Agriculture responds to the urgent need to disseminate digital technologies and smart solutions to enhance production in a sustainable manner to feed the world's growing population and to achieve the SDGs.
The mandate of the Council would be to support governments by facilitating exchange of ideas and experiences to harness the opportunities presented by digitalization. It would serve:
- as a policy advisor, and
- as a central knowledge and coordination hub. The importance of such a Council cannot be underestimated.
Finally, I would also like to say few words about the break-out session — led by Mr. Chris Forbes, Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Canada and supported by the WTO that focused on the theme of “Fair trade Rules” covered in Section 4 of the Communiqué.
The session participants included Ministers and high-level officials of 16 countries as well as high-level officials, including the Secretary General of UNCTAD, Mr Mukhisa Kituyi, the EU Agriculture Commissioner — Mr Janusz Wojciechowski, and representatives of the OECD and Codex Alimentarius Commission.
The key conclusions of these discussions were reported to the Ministerial conference and included some important additional points:
- the call for Agriculture Ministers to work closely with their Trade counterparts to strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system and reduce distortions to agricultural trade given its importance for the food security;
- the urgent need to increase agricultural production to feed the world’s growing population should not come at the expense of the environment and other societal goals;
- the need to assist developing countries in complying with the numerous standards to facilitate their exports, including through the provision of targeted technical assistance and capacity building.
I hope that as Members prepare for the Twelfth Ministerial Conference, they will take into account the views of agriculture Ministers and take the necessary decisions which would help reform the agriculture sector and enable it to effectively deal with contemporary challenges.Thank you.