Work programme on food security for LDCs and NFIDCs
The Declaration on the Emergency Response to Food Insecurity adopted at the 12th Ministerial Conference mandates the establishment of a work programme to help least-developed countries (LDCs) and net food-importing developing countries (NFIDCs) increase their resilience to food insecurity. Established under the auspices of the Committee on Agriculture, the programme will look into making the Marrakesh Decision on Measures Concerning the Possible Negative Effects of the Reform Programme on LDCs and NIFDCs more effective and operational by helping these countries make the best possible use of flexibilities in WTO agreements to bolster domestic production.
Establishment of Work Programme
Following intensive discussions, the work programme was established in November 2022, with the aim of achieving concrete solutions no later than end-November 2023. Under the work plan, members have agreed to begin technical discussions on a range of topics in a Working Group open to all members.
Mr Marcel Vernooij from the Netherlands was appointed as coordinator to facilitate discussions under the initiative in his personal capacity. Mr. Kjetil Tysdal from Norway has been agreed by the Committee to replace Mr. Vernooij as the new coordinator upon the latter's completion of tenure in Geneva in end-July 2023.
Thematic discussions in the Working Group
At the first meeting of the Working Group on 7 December 2022, members finalized a questionnaire to assess food security needs and challenges of LDCs and NFIDCs and their use of flexibilities in WTO agreements and decisions. Members' responses are being reviewed at working group meetings. Members have agreed to use topical questionnaires to inform discussions on various topics under the work programme.
The work programme, under its agreed thematic areas, focuses on trade finance and finance for agricultural production, production inputs, and infrastructure to bolster agricultural resilience. In light of this, the WTO Secretariat organized a workshop on financing on 28 February 2023.
The workshop entailed the participation of relevant international organizations and agencies, and regional and corporate financial institutions. It also heard from some members on their experiences and challenges in the sphere of agriculture financing.
At the second meeting of the working group on 1 March 2023, members reflected on the substantive information gained from the financing workshop and reviewed the initial outcomes of a questionnaire on needs assessment.
Another workshop on productivity and production reliance was organized on 12 April 2023 focussing on policy parameters and associated challenges, especially in LDCs and NFIDCs. It examined how production and productivity may be enhanced and resilience increased against adverse events, climatic aberrations, and food instability in an emergency.
The workshop included participation of relevant international organizations, producers/producer groups as well as members, with sharing of experiences and challenges in augmenting agricultural productivity and resilience.
At the third meeting of the working group on 17 April 2023, members discussed the key takeaways from the productivity workshop and stressed the need to enhance agricultural production and productivity in LDCs and NFIDCs to improve their resilience to the acute food security crisis. Members continued their discussion on financing challenges and reviewed the most recent results from the needs assessment questionnaire.
Members continued their engagement on agricultural financing and enhancing productivity and production resilience at the fourth meeting of the Working Group on 8 June 2023. In their exchange on responses to the questionnaire, members specifically focused on the treatment of international food aid at customs of the recipient country and explored whether they would be willing to collectively agree on a common framework or guidance on exempting such aid from the imposition of customs duties and other taxes by the recipient country at the border. On agricultural finance, members specifically examined import finance and the possible role of importing governments or government-backed agencies in such financing transactions. To support this discussion at the working group, an expert session on import finance was held on 6 June.
The coordinator, Mr. Vernooij, presented a report under his responsibility on 3 July 2023 containing his thoughts and reflections on the progress made under the work programme along with some suggestions on possible areas of convergence. The report was considered at the fifth meeting of the working group on 19 July. Back to back with the fifth meeting of the Working Group, the Republic of Korea, in collaboration with other members, organized a half-day workshop in the afternoon on 19 July on seeds development and green revolution, with the aim of contributing to the ongoing discussions under the food security work programme.
After the release of the Coordinator's report, the Working Group received two written submissions respectively from Egypt and Pakistan, and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, containing several specific suggestions for discussions and possible recommendations. The Coordinator's report along with the written submissions was examined at the recent sixth Working Group meetings on 21 September 2023. The current Coordinator Mr. Kjetil Tysdal (Norway) intends to revise the report considering discussions in the Working Group and Members' specific comments on the report.
All documents related to the work programme are available here.
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