DIRECTOR-GENERAL NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
International trade is vital to ensure global food security, DG Okonjo-Iweala told participants at the meeting, explaining that trade is necessary to move food from the parts of our planet that have a food surplus to the parts that have a food deficit.
She noted that the world is increasingly reliant on international trade for food security due to population growth, climate change and other factors. An estimated one in every six people around the world depends almost entirely on international trade for the food they eat, a proportion that could rise to 50% by 2050, she said. Looking ahead, it will be important to address trade distortions and ensure the sustainability of food systems because trade in food will shape the future of land, water and energy use, she added.
DG Okonjo-Iweala pointed to the wider links between trade and food security. Trade has helped create jobs and raise incomes, enhancing people's ability to purchase food, she noted.
The Director-General pointed to governments' general restraint in the use of trade restrictions during acute phases of the COVID-19 crisis last year. Maintaining the free flow of essential food products meant that WTO members prevented the health crisis from becoming a food crisis. Trade has been one of the solutions, and not one of the obstacles, to global food security in the midst of the pandemic, she argued.
The Director-General welcomed the forthcoming United Nations' Food Systems Summit and its role in reaffirming the need for building food systems that are “fit for purpose and capable of responding to the concerns of the 21st century”. She encouraged participants to contribute new ideas to inform ongoing discussions at the WTO on agriculture.
The United Nations' Food Systems Summit, convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, is due to take place in September 2021. It is part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The Summit will launch new actions to deliver progress on all 17 SDGs, each of which relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems.