Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

Welcome Address

He Changchui
FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
at the

Asia Regional Workshop on Multilateral Trade Negotiations on Agriculture

Bangkok, Thailand, 25 November 2002

Mr. Michael, Minister-Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Thailand
Distinguished resource persons,
Colleagues and friends,

It is my honour and pleasure to welcome you all on behalf of D.G and on my own behalf to the opening of this Regional Workshop on Multilateral Trade Negotiations on Agriculture. This Workshop is organised by FAO under the project "Training for Asian Countries on Uruguay Round Follow-up and Multilateral Trade Negotiations on Agriculture" funded by the Federal Republic of Germany.

The workshop we launch today is one of the most important activities in FAO’s continuing efforts to create and build capacity of developing member countries in areas which fall directly within the Organization’s mandate. In this era of globalisation and interdependence facilitated by revolutionary developments in science and technology, information and communications, as well as finance and market policies, developing countries, and in particular their agricultural sectors, are buffeted by many challenges and opportunities. I need not over-emphasise that the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations in 1994 followed by the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has profound implications to the agriculture sector, which was until then outside the ambit of international trading rules of GATT.

The workshop is based on FAO’s mandate received from its governing bodies and the World Food Summit to ensure that developing countries are fully informed and equal partners in the current round of negotiations on agriculture and that its programme of work reflects the critical linkages among agriculture, economic development and food security. Accordingly, FAO has been carrying out several country-based direct assistance to help developing member countries fully understand and analyse the implications of Uruguay Round Agreements related to agriculture to their own agriculture sector and food security. Country-based activities have been complemented by sub-regional workshops to exchange country experiences and identify areas of inter-country cooperation and action for fuller participation in WTO negotiations to maximise potential benefits of trade liberalisation. In this regard, several of you will recall participating in one of the two sub-regional workshops organised by FAO in late 2000 for Asian countries under its Umbrella Programme for Training on Multilateral Trade Negotiations on Agriculture. Officials from 18 developing FAO Member Countries from the region participated in these workshops held in Kathmandu, Nepal and Los Baños, Philippines.

The workshop in Bangkok today brings together the same 18 countries with the aim to discuss the experiences with the implementation of WTO Agreement on Agriculture and to assist the FAO Member Countries in the preparation for the next round of negotiations.

Although the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) was hailed as a watershed, FAO’s studies have indicated that actual achievements so far have been modest or often disappointing. I don't need to go into the specific details as I believe these are covered analytically and eloquently in the papers contributed by distinguished resource persons participating in this workshop.

I am confident that the workshop will be instrumental in facilitating exchange of lessons from the experience so far and in discussing issues that must be effectively addressed in the Doha Development Round to ensure fair and equitable agricultural trade regimes that can contribute to poverty eradication and strengthening of food security, particularly in low income food deficit countries. Toward this end, and taking into account the work programme of the ongoing WTO negotiations, the workshop is focused on contributing to the Member Countries' capacities to negotiate on the modalities during January-March 2003 in order to produce the final version of the modality by end-March 2003. The modalities would be the main basis for the subsequent submission of comprehensive draft schedules or commitments by individual Members.

It is my hope that this enterprise constitutes an important opportunity to promote regional cooperation, underpinned by exchange of knowledge and information and sharing of experiences, all with the objective of enhancing capacity to skilfully chart the stormy, often treacherous, waters of international trade in agricultural commodities. We must seize the opportunity to learn from each other in this critical area. How we address the issues on the agenda will go a long way in determining the sustainability of the agriculture sector of our respective economies and in turn, food security of our citizens.

I avail myself of this opportunity to thank the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany for the project funding which made the organization of this workshop possible. I am fully confident that FAO will continue to receive the German cooperation and support in further activities in this area under Phase II of the Umbrella Programme FAO has recently prepared.

I also thank distinguished resource persons from Asia and outside who have kindly agreed to collaborate with us in this exercise.

I thank the participants for being part of this workshop and assure them that in organising this workshop we have tried our best to fulfil their hopes and expectations and to make their stay in Bangkok comfortable.

Finally, I thank the 18 Member Country Governments who kindly and positively responded to our invitation to depute their senior officers to the workshop.

A hearty welcome once more to you all and best wishes for a very successful outcome!