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Press Release 98/53 


Rome, September 23 -- With less than one year to go before the initiation of a new round of agricultural trade negotiations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today that the developing countries must be better prepared than during the Uruguay Round, which resulted in the Agreement on Agriculture, one of the Marrakech Agreements.

This is particularly important for the group of least developed countries and net food importing developing countries which depend on the world market for a large share of their food needs. Together, these two groups of countries account for just under a billion people and remain below other developing countries when measured by most indicators of social development.

Article 20 of the Uruguay Round Agricultural agreement commits countries to work towards substantial progressive reductions in support and protection in agriculture and to continue the process of reform through further negotiations beginning in 1999. FAO is voicing concern that countries are not yet well enough informed for them to be able to safeguard their interests at the new round of talks.

In an effort to prepare these countries for future negotiations on agriculture, FAO in cooperation with the Agency for International Trade, Information and Cooperation (AITIC), held a workshop on 22-23 September examining the implications the Uruguay Round has for less-advantaged countries (LACs) in the fields of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Participants to the workshop included Geneva-based trade representatives of the less-advantaged countries as well as some trade analysts from capitals.

The areas covered at the workshop include analysis of the implications of the Agreement on Agriculture for developing countries, Codex Alimentarius regulations that protect consumers and food trade, the role of international plant protection convention in trade, issues of the global fish and livestock markets, sustainable forest management and trade and issues on plant genetic resources and the Convention of Biological Diversity.

The Director of AITIC, Ms. Esperanza Duran, highlighted the importance her Organization attaches to assisting LACs in access to trade related information, ideally in cooperation with international organizations with recognized expertise. The joint AITIC/FAO workshop on agriculture, fisheries and forestry is the first concrete action towards the common goal of assisting the LACs to become fully integrated in the multilateral trading system.

In addressing the participants, Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director-General of FAO, stressed that the better preparation of the LACs on issues related to the reform process in agriculture is a necessary condition for them to become active participants in the forthcoming negotiations and to benefit from them. He reiterated the commitment of FAO to continue in providing information and technical assistance for capacity building in trade related issues within its mandate.

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For further information and interviews with Workshop participants, please contact the FAO Liaison Office with the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; telephone: 00 41 22 9173690, or 9173683.


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