I am delighted to join you for this Ministerial Segment on behalf of the World Trade Organization.

Joining hands with the FAO, World Food Program, World Bank, and the IMF, the WTO will play its role in the global effort to address the food security crisis.

Where do we stand together now?

The immediate international response to the threat of a devastating food crisis, primarily fueled by the consequences of the conflict in the black sea region, has been quite effective thus far.   

As international agencies, we maintain constant contact at the leaders' level to coordinate our actions. This coordination happens under the UN Secretary-General Global Crisis Response Group or directly amongst the economic agencies, which recently met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Several of our Members have also been liaising with us to coordinate their response initiatives. These include the Food Agriculture Resilience Mission (FARM), the Global Alliance for Food Security (GAFS), and the German G7 initiative that want to work with us on the trade front as well as on the production front.   

During our recent Ministerial Conference, our Members agreed to a Declaration of the Emergency Response to Food Insecurity in which they resolved not to impose export prohibitions or restrictions in a manner inconsistent with relevant WTO provisions. This included trade in fertilizers and other agricultural trade inputs.

In a related historic decision, our Members also agreed not to impose export prohibitions or restrictions on foodstuffs purchased for non-commercial humanitarian purposes by the WFP.

They also committed to a dedicated work programme to tackle the trade needs of the least developed countries (LDCs) and net food importing countries expeditiously.

In this context, Members began reviewing the relevant provisions in our rulebook, which deal with trade and financial support to facilitate food supply in countries. We are following closely the FAO and IMF initiatives on financial facilities to help governments respond to inflationary shocks on their balance of payments.

One of the significant achievements of this summer has been the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative function — it has undoubtedly helped ease the crisis. Around 230 voyages from Ukrainian ports have successfully exported 5 million metric tons of grains and other foodstuffs, with about 30% reaching low and lower-middle-income countries.

Our informal discussions with private sector operators, traders, and shippers, have reassured us that the initiative operates satisfactorily.  It must continue and ensure that it benefits the poorest and most vulnerable food importing countries. 

All this is helping to relieve the tensions, and the FAO Food Price Index is falling even if it remains about 8% higher than last year's.

How do we get out of this storm? At the WTO, we will focus our efforts on two priorities.

Our first priority is keeping markets transparent and open. We will continue to monitor the flow of measures introduced in response to the crisis — export restrictions and import facilitation measures. So far, the situation remains tense but not out of control. Since the outbreak of the war, we have recorded 61 trade restrictive measures on food and feed, and 7 on fertilisers, but 15 of these measures have been phased out.  In parallel, 46 import facilitating measures have been introduced by 25 countries. This is not the best scenario, but it is not out of control either. The situation compares favourably to the food crisis in 2008.  

There are two significant areas of concern that we are going to focus on:

  • One is improving the notifications from our members; not all of them have done it in real time. This needs to improve as transparency is key to limiting speculation and price increases.
  • Two is to focus in detail on trade measures impacting fertilizers. While the current crisis has more to do with accessibility than food availability, trade in fertilizers is essential to preventing an availability crisis next year due to insufficient production.

Our second priority is to restart the WTO negotiations to achieve an equitable and efficient international food system.  We will do so on two fronts.

  • The first is our fisheries subsidies negotiations. We achieved a landmark agreement prohibiting IUU fishing subsidies and those facilitating fishing on the high seas.
    Dear Ministers, on behalf of the WTO Director General, I urge all our members to expeditiously proceed with the ratification of this agreement to enable it to enter into force and on supporting the second wave of negotiations. This action will make a significant difference in food security related to fisheries.
  • The second is our agricultural trade-related reform agenda. Our negotiations have stalled for decades. There were no outcomes at the last two ministerial conferences. We need to restart the negotiations taking into account contemporary challenges. A new approach is essential to break the stalemate, especially considering that climate change and food security have become central to agricultural production and trade.

Dear Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am confident that with your support, we can build on the momentum gained at our 12th Ministerial Conference, and we will assist governments in making the correct choices. There is a way out of this storm. We need to walk it together. Count on the WTO to take its part of the burden.

In the coming year, we will work with our members to negotiate agricultural trade policy reforms, and food security will be a priority. We are committing to fight the global food security crisis. This is an opportunity to collaborate to stop export restrictions from rising. We also want to strengthen existing rules to ensure that such restrictions are at least notified and that food importing countries are not caught off-guard.  

Thank you for your attention.




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