Geneva, 7 Mar 2016 (Global Donor Platform for Rural Development)
Trade is a means by which poor countries can leverage economic growth, reduce their levels of poverty and even meet the SDGs. For example, SDG 2 on ending hunger and food insecurity points towards correcting and preventing trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets as an indicator towards its achievement. Trade has furthermore emerged as a means to finance development – a position catalyzed by significant reductions in ODA by traditional donors – as it was featured in the FFD3 outcome document.
As part of the Platform’s growing work on trade in agriculture and rural development (ARD), the Annual General Assembly, held on 20th January, posed the following question participants: Are agricultural trade and rural development playing a duet or a solo? This is because the governance issues surrounding agricultural trade lead to a number of debates, particularly surrounding how trade can work better for smallholder farmers and even how trade could help deliver food and nutrition security. Overarching such discussions is one on which instruments and support mechanisms exist and offer practical solutions and opportunities?
A panel session during the AGA discussed a number of institutional and legal opportunities to increase the positive impact of trade in ARD. The main messages, according to each panelist, were:
Christophe Bellman (ICTSD) spoke about the critical role trade flows that legally binding trade agreements play in allowing frameworks that make sure trade flows happen easily and remove distortions. We must ask ourselves what trade restrictions are legitimate, as it is not just about liberalization.
Three main priorities for food security are:
- Policy instruments to deal with excessive price volatility and make sure your population can access food.
- Consciousness about the impact of policies to support national food production. Countries want to ensure productivity, but how does this affect other (poor) countries?
- Market access, reducing tariffs and Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures. There needs to be a realization of which of these measures are legitimate and which may be disguised protectionism.
The topic of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures and technical standards was discussed in more depth by COMESA representative Martha Byanyima, because in the majority of COMESA countries, agriculture is still a leading economic activity. Protection of plants and animals from pests and invasive species ensures food and nutrition security and prevents diseases.
SPS regulations on countries have to speak to international trade, but also ensure they serve domestic needs as well. Some overarching debates remain on the harmonization of standards, whether they should be harmonized towards international or regional standards. COMESA believes that there should be direct support to regional SPS and Standards programmes under regional integration. For this, it is essential to enhance the institutional capacities of African institutions charged with CAADP implementation (AUC, NEPAD, RECs). Linking these efforts to country level actions will ensure that trade/customs reforms and investments are directly supporting initiatives to enhance food and nutrition security.
The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) for Trade-Related Assistance supports the Least Developed Countries supports (LDCs) to better integrate into the global trading system and to make trade a driver for development. EIF representative Ratnakar Adhikari described its functions which include mainstreaming trade into national development strategies, setting up new structures or strengthen existing institutions needed to coordinate the delivery of trade-related technical assistance and building capacity to trade, similar to some of the discussions covered by COMESA and ICTSD.
The EIF is a mix of traditional and emerging donors. It is managed through a trust fund which builds capacity for developing countries to contribute to the multilateral trade agreements. Third parties, such as GIZ, implement the programs.
Philippe Jacques from the European Commission spoke about the Aid for Trade (A4T) initiative, specifying that we may consider five areas as requiring priority attention under the A4T initiative for the agricultural sector:
- Technology transfer and utilisation – one reason for the lack of agriculture competitiveness in developing countries is the low productivity land and labour, as well as the low adoption of new technologies by the vast majority of small and medium-scale farmers.
- Rural infrastructures – the ability of the existing value chains to respond to new trade opportunities, as well as for the emergence of new value chains, is highly conditioned by the availability of adequate rural infrastructures.
- Investment in water Management – in conjunction with the two factors mentioned before, it can offer pay-offs to public and private sector investment in agriculture
- Technical standards of products – activities in this field are being completed within the framework of the WTO Agreements on SPS measures and Technical Barriers to Trade
- Capacity for trade negotiations and trade policy Analysis – in addition to multilateral trade negotiations, most countries have engaged or concluded trade negotiations at regional, bilateral and preferential levels. That places a significant burden on the capacity needs to be built in order to implement these agreements, for responding to trade disputes and for adopting and complying with rules and standards.