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Press Release 99/53


GENEVA, September 23 --The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today opened a two-day symposium in Geneva, Switzerland on agriculture, trade and food security. The meeting is part of FAO's effort to help member countries, particularly developing countries, with preparations for upcoming trade negotiations that are expected to be launched at the third World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference. The Conference is scheduled to be held from 30 November to 3 December 1999, in Seattle, Washington (USA). The symposium will examine issues that affect agricultural production and trade in developing countries, while focusing on ways to improve food security.

Since 1995, FAO has been helping developing countries improve their ability to analyze the effects of the Uruguay Round Agreements on agriculture and to adjust their agriculture sectors to the new trade environment so they can take advantage of new trading opportunities. The UN agency has also continued to help developing countries prepare for the next round of multilateral trade negotiations by holding a series of workshops explaining the issues directly related to the WTO Agreements on Agriculture, including sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT).

The SPS Agreement deals with how to apply measures that protect human, animal and plant health without allowing them to be used to restrict international trade. The Agreement recognizes that governments have the right to adopt sanitary and phytosanitary measures for health reasons, but that they should be based on science and applied only to the extent necessary. The SPS Agreement also encourages countries to adopt international standards such as those established by the FAO/World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius Commission.

The TBT Agreement does not allow technical regulations and standards, including packaging, marking and labeling requirements to be used as unnecessary obstacles to international trade.

The Geneva symposium is part of FAO's on-going effort to address the concerns of developing countries about agricultural trade and in particular the interrelationship between agriculture, economic development and food security. Trade in general, and especially agricultural trade, can help increase the integration of developing countries into the global economy, according to FAO.

The FAO Symposium will assess trends and shifts in world agricultural trade, particularly in food sectors like cereals, livestock products, oils and fats. It will examine supply and demand at global and regional levels and look at factors that influence these trends. Other topics of the Symposium include: world market prices and their stability; the participation of developing countries in global agricultural markets; major trends in food security and how they are affected by the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture.

FAO will also examine issues at stake for developing countries in the Seattle negotiations, taking into account the World Food Summit Plan of Action, which calls for the number of hungry people in the world to be reduced by half by the year 2015.

These issues center around developing countries being allowed sufficient flexibility to pursue their development and food security objectives under the rules and obligations of the WTO.

According to Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director-General of FAO's Economic and Social Department, "It is taken for granted, and the facts testify, that agriculture remains the main hope for development for a majority of these countries. The issues raised in this regard are: How can the Agreement on Agriculture and other relevant WTO provisions contribute to the process and how to ensure that the next round of trade talks can be made supportive of agricultural development?"

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For the background papers presented at the Symposium please see the FAO Web site:

For further Information, please contact:

John Riddle
FAO Media Officer
Telephone: (+39) 06 570 53259
Fax: (+39) 06 570 53259

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