H.E. Myung-soo Lee
Vice-Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Republic of Korea
Dr Sangmu Lee
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the Director-General of FAO Jacques Diouf, and on my own behalf and my colleague, Mr. Mafa Chipeta, Director, TCA and other colleagues present here, I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to this policy workshop on China, India and selected Asian economies: implications of rapid economic growth for agriculture and food security in Asia and Pacific Rim countries. My colleagues and I are greatly honoured and privileged to have you all here.
First of all, allow me to thank the Government of the Republic of Korea and in particular the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for generously offering to host this workshop in their capital city. We in FAO highly value the existing cooperation with Republic of Korea and the support it has provided to FAO in carrying out its mission in several ways. We look forward to closer collaboration with the Republic of Korea not only as a financial contributor to our programmes but also a rich pool of policy experiences and technical expertise in modern agriculture.
I am grateful to the resource persons and distinguished participants for taking time out of their busy schedules to travel here to share your own knowledge and experiences in the pursuit of mutual learning. We look forward to your contributions and active collaboration during the next two days so that we all meet our goals and expectations from the workshop.
As you all are aware, Asia and the Pacific region has made great socio-economic progress in the three decades and emerged as a leader in many fields. There has been manifold increase in per capita income as well as food production. As an effective participant in the globalization process, the Region is undergoing transformation and changing different aspects of the lives of its inhabitants.
However, it is a region of great contrasts- people in certain parts of the region enjoy one of the highest standards of living on earth while a substantial number of people in other parts struggle for two square meals on a day-to-day basis. How can one explain the existing disparities amongst countries and subregions and within the countries? Is it simply because of resource endowments or because of how the resources were used, how the opportunities were exploited and how deftly the challenges were handled? The experience of the Asian countries is ripe with plenty of interesting stories and lessons on the rise and stagnation, and sometimes, unfortunately, on the fall of nations from their glorious past. In a nutshell, one can claim that the significant changes that continue to unfold in this region are not so much a result of resource endowments, but are driven by domestic public policies and strategies which respond to the available opportunities and challenges in a globalizing world in achieving the common aspirations of the people to better their lives. In fact, enabling policy and economic environments were the main engines of progress in several countries and in particular resulted in rapid economic growth in China and India.
Therefore, in the context of providing policy assistance to member countries in the region towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating poverty and hunger, FAO has initiated this activity to learn from the experience of selected countries so that those of us who are trying very hard to progress can understand the implications of the changes occurring in larger countries of the region, namely China and India, and draw some useful policy lessons for crafting their own agricultural policies and sector strategies from the experiences of other two countries, i.e. Thailand and Viet Nam. One part of this initiative is to document country experiences to promote better understand of the context, the initiatives, the dynamics, the results and last but not the least the new challenges in the New Millennium. The draft country studies are now ready. However, our task does not stop there. The finding and conclusions emerging from the analysis of the country experiences need to be reviewed, discussed and internalized by policy stakeholders in this region. This is the second part which brings us together here.
As mentioned in the documents circulated to you earlier today, the workshop is being organized as a forum of selected policy-level stakeholders to validate the findings of the case studies and discuss country and regional perspectives on the emerging implications and policy lessons. In this context, the purpose of the workshop is to review the main findings of the study reports for the four countries. For the implications of raid economic developments in China and India, the focus of discussions will be on assessing the implications for other countries and proposing ways for tracking this in future. It will also discuss how to facilitate anticipatory policy and strategic adjustments in the other countries so as to arrive at win-win outcomes for the Region and the Pacific Rim countries. The discussions would also seek to draw lessons from these countries for potential adaptation to other countries. For the case studies on Thailand and Vietnam, the degree of emphasis on implications as opposed to lessons of experience would be reversed relative to the China/India studies. Taking the opportunity of being here with experts from the republic of Korea, the workshop will also discuss the experience of ROK in agricultural development and the challenges confronting its agriculture sector to harness their experience.
It is indeed heartening to note that we have amongst us the senior government officials, policy analysts and practitioners from different corners of Asia with varied socio-economic situations, opportunities and challenges. I am sure each one of us has an interesting story to tell and a few lessons to learn. This is an inter-dependent world as never before. Thinking and actions of a nation, affects the wellbeing as well as the behaviours of the others in many ways which are too obvious.
Despite tremendous progress in the non-agricultural sector, agriculture remains a crucial sector for the economies of not only of developing countries where a significant proportion of the population subsists, but also of developed countries where only a small fraction of the population is dependent on agriculture. This fact is underscored loudly and clearly by the available scenarios for the WTO Ministerial Conference next week in Hong Kong, China. Success in equitably addressing the agricultural trade issues on differing national interests have so far proved extremely difficult to reconcile, is likely to be crucial to the success of the whole Conference. I understand some of you will be traveling to that Conference immediately after this workshop. You may, therefore, like to share your perspectives on the likely scenarios for the region if the deal on agriculture goes through.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the final item on the agenda of the present workshop reflects, the workshop is expected to provide intellectual inputs to help shape and focus FAO country policy work in the region in the coming years. Therefore, we look forward to your contribution to that objective as well.
In concluding, I would like to again emphasize that the topics you will be discussing today and tomorrow are critically important to sustainable agriculture, rural development and food security in the region. I am confident your deliberations will provide the required insight into the issues and how to address them.
I welcome you once again, wishing you success in your endeavours and a pleasant stay in Seoul.