COMMITTEE ON COMMODITY PROBLEMS
Rome, 6-9 March 2001
REPORT ON TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
1. The Plan of Action of the World Food Summit commits FAO to assist developing countries on trade issues and, in particular, "in preparing for multilateral trade negotiations including in agriculture, fisheries and forestry inter alia through studies, analysis and training." The Committee at its last Session urged FAO to continue its programme of work in this area, in particular with the aim of ensuring that developing countries are well informed and equal partners in the new multilateral trade negotiations on agriculture. The Committee's recommendation in this regard was endorsed by the 30th FAO Conference.
2. This document provides information on FAO activities in this area. The full range of FAO normative and operational activities on issues related to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is now accessible on FAO's trade website at http://www.fao.org/ur.1
3. As reported to the previous session of the Committee, FAO has a long history of providing its Member States with trade-related technical assistance, dating back to well before the Uruguay Round (UR) of negotiations. This activity culminated in the "Umbrella Training Programme on Uruguay Round Follow-up" which was launched in 1999 with the generous support of many FAO Members. By January 2001, more than 800 people from some 140 countries had received training under this Programme of regional workshops, which covers all the UR Agreements of relevance to FAO's mandate: the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and the Marrakesh Ministerial Decision on Measures Concerning the Possible Negative Effects of the Reform Programme on Least-Developed and Net Food-Importing Developing Countries (see Annex for the list of workshops held and participating countries).
4. FAO's technical assistance efforts in 1999 and 2000 focused on drawing together the main ideas that have emerged from regional workshops and perspectives, and at fostering a better understanding by developing countries of the negotiating agenda issues of concern to them. In particular, an expert consultation was held in July 1999 with a focus on the experiences of developing countries with the implementation of the UR AoA as well as on the issues of concern to them in the forthcoming WTO negotiations. The report of this consultation is available in print and on the FAO website.2
5. FAO organised a Symposium on "Agriculture, Trade and Food Security" in September 1999 in Geneva, Switzerland, which focused on the interrelationship between agriculture, economic development and food security. This symposium involved the preparation of a number of background studies including a series of 14 country case studies documenting the experiences of developing countries with the implementation of the AoA. The report of this symposium and the background documentation are available in print and on the FAO website.3
6. In June 2000, FAO organised an informal meeting of international organizations, research agencies and selected agricultural trade experts to discuss post-Seattle issues, analytical needs in support of the negotiations and technical assistance requirements. The report of this meeting is available in print and on the FAO website.4
7. On SPS and TBT related issues, FAO's technical assistance is highlighted by the critical role played by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) in the WTO Agreements on SPS and TBT. Both the CAC and the IPPC standards, guidelines and recommendations are identified in the SPS Agreement as benchmarks for harmonization of food quality and safety measures and plant protection standards respectively. The obligations of the SPS and TBT Agreements have resulted in significantly increased requests to FAO for technical advice and assistance.5
8. FAO helps developing countries with a range of TRIPS issues in agriculture and renewable natural resources management, including in the field of intellectual property rights over plant varieties, and both technical and legal aspects of seed quality control and plant varietal protection.6 FAO is able upon request, and within available resources, to advise countries in relation to the fulfilment of their WTO obligations to provide effective plant varietal protection and to assist in the formulation of relevant draft acts and regulations.
9. FAO co-operates closely with a number of other international organisations in the delivery of the Umbrella Programme and other trade-related support activities. It is also associated with the six agency (WTO, UNCTAD, ITC, World Bank, IMF and UNDP) Integrated Framework initiative for providing trade-related technical assistance to the Least Developed Countries. FAO has established good working relationships with a number of NGOs which have capacity in trade-related issues. Such relations with NGOs are being fostered by consultations and exchange of studies and information on the impact of the UR agreements as they are being implemented in practice.
10. In the course of implementing the Umbrella Training Programme, it became apparent that the most frequent problems confronted by developing countries in trade-related areas are:
11. The new WTO negotiations for continuing the reform process in agriculture were launched in February 2000. WTO Member Governments agreed at the WTO Council to go forward with the negotiations on agriculture and services as mandated in the respective Uruguay Round Agreements. With respect to agriculture, it was agreed that the negotiations would be conducted by the Committee on Agriculture (CoA) and will take place in Special Sessions in conjunction with its meetings.
12. The first Special Session of the CoA, which met in Geneva in March 2000, agreed a programme of work which implied two phases to the negotiation process. The first phase, lasting for about a year, was devoted to submissions of negotiating proposals and discussions of technical background papers within the framework of Article 20. This phase will end with a stocktaking meeting in March 2001. Thereafter, a second phase will involve the negotiations proper to reach a new agreement.
13. In support of member countries in the new WTO negotiations on agriculture, FAO is strengthening its programme of technical assistance aimed at enhancing their capacity, particularly developing countries and countries in transition, to participate effectively in the multilateral negotiations and to derive maximum benefit from global trade in food and agricultural products, including fishery and forestry products. FAO's trade-related assistance involves capacity building for trade, including normative as well as operational field activities with a direct impact on supply-side capacities. The main elements of the programme encompass both work of immediate urgency in support of the negotiations on agriculture and priority work of a continuing nature as part of FAO's mandate. The main elements of this support include: information and databases; analysis; training; expert consultations; and supply-side capacity building of a continuing nature which is a priority part of FAO's mandate. Details regarding the focus of current priorities in the these on-going programmes are provided below.
14. FAO is the leading international institution in the collection and dissemination of information and data related to agricultural production, consumption and trade including food, farm, fishery and forest products. These activities form part of the Organization's core strategic objectives and as such constitute an important part of the ongoing programme of work. The multilateral negotiations on agriculture are placing additional demands on FAO in this area, however, and the Organization is responding with several initiatives.
15. The FAO Website provides one of the most comprehensive sources of agricultural information in the world. It covers the entire range of FAO activities, including those directly related to the WTO and the negotiations on agriculture (www.fao.org/ur). Web-based publishing is becoming an increasingly important avenue for the dissemination of FAO analysis, and plans are underway to use it as an interactive vehicle to improve the delivery of training and capacity-building activities.
16. FAOSTAT databases contain a wealth of data on agriculture, nutrition, fisheries, forestry and food quality control. Where possible these data are provided by country and by regional and economic groups, including those groups relevant to the WTO, such as LDCs and NFIDCs. In addition, FAO is a co-sponsor of the Agricultural Market Access Database (AMAD), which is jointly operated by FAO and a number of national and international organizations. The AMAD database, which is publicly accessible through the Internet at http://www.amad.net, includes information on market access conditions (including bound and applied tariffs) for agricultural products in 46 countries.
17. As part of a continuing work programme to strengthen national marketing information services, FAO recently released Agrimarket 2, a marketing information software programme to support improvements in marketing of agricultural products. FAO provides information on livestock trade which is relevant to the International Office of Epizootics (OIE), on the necessary components for national veterinary services to adapt to the WTO SPS and TBT Agreements.
18. FAO has an extensive normative programme of analysis related to the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements and to the new round of negotiations. In follow-up to the studies reported to the Committee at its previous sessions, further assessments of the impact of the AoA on support and protection to agriculture and on global agricultural commodity markets are conducted periodically. FAO has also conducted a series of case-studies, examining the experiences of developing countries with the implementation of the AoA and their concerns in the new negotiations. These studies are summarized in CCP 01/11. Individual commodity assessments are continuing and are reviewed by the respective commodity Intergovernmental Groups.
19. Other examples of FAO's trade-related normative programme activities, which provide the foundation for operational activities include: evaluation of the impact of the implementation of the Uruguay Round on trade and food security of the developing countries; analysis of the Marrakesh Ministerial Decision on the reform-related food difficulties of LDCs and NFIDCs and on ways of making the Decision operational and effective; analysis of emerging issues and analysis of country proposals for their implications for trade, food security and agricultural development.
20. In the commodity sector, analysis will focus on the implications of policy developments on changing competitiveness and global trade patterns, as well as on longer term market prospects for individual commodities. Work is already underway to develop a practical framework for assessing the trade effects on developing countries of WTO Agreements on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Technical Barriers to Trade. Increased emphasis will be given to analyzing the food security implications of trade developments for major products and categories of products, and assistance will be provided within available resources to groups of countries or individual countries regarding their commodity trade strategies, including in the light of the changing policy environment. In the fishery sector, trade policy analysis focuses on issues such as the impact of the Uruguay Round agreements on fish exports and adaptation of developed and developing countries to changes in fish import regimes in major markets; the impact of fish trade on employment and food security; the impact of fishery subsidies on trade; and the impact of further trade liberalization on sustainability of resource use. In the forestry sector, policy analysis concentrates on the following areas: the impact of further liberalisation on forest products; the relationship between trade and sustainable forest management; the relationship between trade in forest products and the environment; the significance of regional trade groupings to trade in forest products; and trade issues of significance to countries moving from centrally-planned economies to market economies.
21. FAO's current training activities are focussed on the adaptation of the substance of the ongoing Umbrella Training Programme to new developments in the multilateral trade negotiations and the extension of the coverage of issues to those of more direct relevance to fisheries and forestry; completion of the Umbrella Training Programme (now scheduled to end in 2002); and the formulation of alternative cost-effective approaches to disseminate teaching materials, e.g. through web-based distance teaching/learning techniques.
22. FAO has a role to play in enhancing understanding of policy issues at the national, regional and international levels. Expert consultations and symposia are useful means to clarify issues relevant to the negotiations and to aid policy formulation. Activities that may be relevant include: national workshops to help identify national interests and clarify negotiating positions vis-à-vis the issues in the multilateral negotiations; regional workshops (similar in purpose to the national workshops above undertaken in cooperation with regional or sub-regional organizations e.g, SADC, OAU, CARICOM, etc). In addition, one-day workshops are organized to provide countries with an opportunity to review and assess the implementation of their National Agricultural Development-Horizon 2010 strategy, update it and adjust it taking into account current national, regional and international conditions especially the new world trading environment. Also, workshops are a useful mechanism for fostering regional cooperation in fish marketing, mutual recognition between forest certification programmes, and the relationship between trade and sustainable forest management.
23. Developing countries are increasingly calling for "hard" forms of technical assistance which lead to a strengthening of their physical and institutional trade-related capacities. FAO can, within available resources, assist these efforts in a number of ways. Examples of such support include establishing or adapting legislation, regulations and systems to comply with the WTO agreements relating to agriculture; upgrading domestic SPS/TBT mechanisms to strengthen capacity to meet the standards and norms of the international market place; setting up of trade information and export marketing systems; supporting the formulation and implementation of investment projects to overcome supply-side difficulties hindering competitiveness (e.g. commodity and trade development projects, including for vertical and horizontal diversification, productivity enhancement and product/market development); and assisting developing countries, through the FAO Investment Centre, in preparing agricultural and rural development projects for international financing.
24. The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFA) is a major FAO activity aimed at rapid increases in productivity and food production in a large number of LIFDCs. As the programme coverage increases and food production begins to grow in these countries, there will be a need to address the issue of reinforcing and sustaining the gains though the new global trading environment.
25. The Committee may wish to comment on the technical assistance and other trade-related activities of the Secretariat and provide its guidance on priority areas of work in relation to the ongoing negotiations on agriculture.
1 FAO also publishes a brochure on FAO Technical Assistance and the Uruguay Round Agreements. The Brochure, now it its third edition, discusses the significance of the WTO Agreements for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, reviews related technical assistance provided by FAO, and outlines specific areas in which the Organization can use its expertise to continue helping member countries take advantage of current and potential export opportunities and minimize possible negative repercussions.
2 Report of a Meeting of Experts on Issues of Interest to Developing Countries for the Forthcoming WTO Negotiations on Agriculture, ESCP/No.5, FAO, Rome, 1999.
3 Agriculture, Trade and Food Security, Issues and Options in the WTO Negotiations From the Perspective of Developing Countries, Volume I: Issues and Options, and Volume II: Country Case Studies, Commodities and Trade Division, FAO, Rome, 2000.
4 The WTO Negotiations on Agriculture: Post-Seattle Major Issues, Analytical Needs and Technical Assistance Requirements, Report on an informal meeting of interested agencies and selected agricultural trade experts organized by FAO, Rome, 12-13 June 2000.
5 Relevant FAO technical assistance activities (1999/99) are listed in the Codex Alimentarius document ALINORM 99/5-Add.1.
6 The WFS endorsed the Global Plan of Action (GPA) on Plant Genetic Resources. A series of GPA follow-up actions have been implemented by FAO, including six regional meetings to promote the implementation of the GPA. The development of legislation consistent with Art. 27.3 (b) of the TRIPS Agreement was a concern to many developing countries attending these meetings.
|Venues and Dates 1999-2000||Participating Countries|
4-8 October 1999
|Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo|
4-8 December 2000
|Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe|
8-12 January 2001
|Angola, Botswana, Eritrea, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe|
|Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
15-19 January 2001
|Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Somalia, Sudan|
|ASIA and the PACIFIC|
27 Nov.-1 Dec.2000
|Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka|
|Los Baños (The Philippines)
4-8 December 2000
|Cambodia, Indonesia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Viet Nam|
|Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu|
|Prague (Czech Republic)
4-8 October 1999
|Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey|
|Prague (Czech Republic)
10-14 January 2000
|Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Yugoslavia|
|LATIN AMERICA and the CARIBBEAN|
7-11 June 1999
|Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic|
|Santa Cruz (Bolivia)
29 May-2 June 2000
|Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela|
23-27 October 2000
|Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos|
16-20 September 2000
|Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates|
26-30 September 1999
|Afghanistan, Egypt, Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia|