FAO Symposium on trade, agriculture and food security opens in Geneva


What will be the most pressing issues facing developing countries at the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on agricultural trade? Representatives from developing countries, observers from regional institutions and international organizations, and selected experts and resource persons will be gathering in Geneva, Switzerland, from 23 to 24 September to examine this question at the FAO Symposium on Agriculture, Trade and Food Security. The FAO Symposium aims to assist governments in the developing world prepare for the WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Seattle, United States, from 30 November to 2 December. According to a WTO press release, the Seattle Conference will mark the beginning of "global negotiations which will shape world trade".

Mauritania: Decanting milk into churns at the milk plant
FAO/18822/I. Balderi

Since the completion of the Uruguay Round of international trade negotiations in 1995, FAO has been providing ongoing technical assistance to developing countries in assessing the impact of the various trade agreements, most notably the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). The purpose of the AoA was to create a fair and market-oriented international agricultural trading system by increasing market access and reducing subsidies. FAO has carried out a broad range of activities intended to assist developing countries adjust to the new agricultural trade regulations and take advantage of new trade opportunities. Two elements of the AoA, the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), encourage countries to adopt international standards for food safety, plant and animal health and product labelling. The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission is playing an essential role in setting these standards and in assisting member countries comply with them.

The Geneva Symposium is intended to provide a forum where those concerned about the effects of agricultural trade reforms on developing countries can share their views on different aspects of all the relevant agreements. In the words of Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director-Genreal of FAO's Economic and Social Department, "The Symposium aims to address the critical linkages that exist among agriculture, economic development and food security."

The Symposium will look at trends in agricultural trade over the past two decades and the effects the AoA has had on international markets and the economies of developing countries. Participants will then focus on the issues at stake in the WTO negotiations and the policy options for improving agricultural production, trade and food security. In formulating potential policy options, participants will use as reference points the goals stated in the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the Plan of Action of the 1996 World Food Summit. It is hoped that the ideas that emerge from the FAO Symposium will contribute to ensuring that the WTO negotiations in Seattle will 'shape world trade' with food security in mind.


Listen to or download an audio report on the Symposium on Agriculture, Trade and Food Security. The report includes an interview with Paul Nicholson, member-farmer of the Spanish non-governmental organization Via Campesina.

  • RealAudio (360 Kb)
    Instant play but lower quality than mp3. To listen to a RealAudio sound file, Realplayer G2 is required (available free on the Web).
  • Mp3 (broadcast quality, 1.371 Kb to be downloaded)
    To listen to an mp3 sound file, an mp3 player, Quicktime 4.0, RealJukebox player or Windows Media Player is required (all available free on the Web).


22 September 1999

Related links


 FAO Home page 

 Search our site 

Comments?: Webmaster@fao.org

© FAO, 1999