|FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION
OF THE UNITED NATIONS
|ISLAMIC DEVELOPMENT BANK|
High-Level Technical Workshop
"Regional Programmes for Food Security in the Near East:
Towards Sustainable Food Security and Poverty Alleviation"
Jeddah, 8-9 October 2003
Table of contents
2. Regional Integration: Concepts and Experiences in Developing Countries
2.1. Regionalism, Regional Integration and Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs): Review of Concepts
2.2. Regional Trade Agreements and the Experiences of Developing Countries
2.3. Some Elements in Formulating and Implementing Economic Cooperation
2.4. Regional Economic Organizations and Regional Agricultural Trade in the Near East
3. National Agricultural Development Strategies and Food Security Challenges in the Near East
3.1 Food Security in the Context of Regional Integration
3.2. Food Security and Trade Integration
3.3. Food Security and Strategies for Agricultural Development in the Near East
4. FAO Initiative for Regional Programmes for Food Security (RPFS)
4.2. Components of the RPFS
4.3 RPFS in the Near East Region
5. Interrelationship between the RPFS and National Strategies
5.1. Linkages between National and Regional Priorities
5.2 Types of Linkages among National Strategies and Policies
5.3 Prioritizing Collective Actions
5.4. Linking National Needs through Regional Initiatives and Programmes
5.5. Policy Considerations for RPFS and National Strategies Linkages
The paper was been prepared for a High Level Meeting on "Regional Programs for Food Security: Towards Sustainable Food Security and Poverty Alleviation" convened jointly by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, during the period 8-9 October 2003. It paper tries to develop a conceptual framework that links national strategies and RPFS in the Near East (NE) Region. The paper's main objective is to highlight the issues pertaining to the interrelationship between national with regional strategies/policies through the review of policy considerations for different types of links (the direct and indirect ones), including criteria for considering regional and/or multi-country programs and projects.
The growing interest in regional integration is not based on trade motives alone given that tariff levels in most regions have been falling and are now at relatively low levels. All successful regional groupings have objectives other than freeing trade, and that this may be essential for the will to evolve. In many instances, trade may well be secondary to political or security objectives or a tool rather than an objective: it is difficult to find any groups which have only a strictly trade agenda. However, with growing propensity of Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs), it is still of great relevance to appreciate the emerging new concepts and trends on the gains from integrating services of trade and from regulatory integration.
The past experience of developing countries with regional integration schemes is not positive. Preferential trade arrangements give rise both to trade creation and trade diversion effects, as well as to transfers between the member countries. The design of RTAs among developing countries in the past tended to maximize the costs of trade diversion (because of high external tariffs) and also encouraged regressive transfers from poorer to better-off members of such arrangements. The recent more favourable assessment of regional integration arrangements involving developing countries is based on the following considerations: Regionalism will lead to net trade creation as long as it is coupled with a significant degree of trade liberalization and where emphasis is put on reducing cost-creating trade barriers which simply waste resources. Regional economic integration may be a precondition for, rather than an obstacle to, integrating developing countries into the world economy by minimizing the costs of market fragmentation.
The Near East countries have been parties to a plethora of RTAs, principally involving preferential trading arrangements. The vast majority of these agreements are among Arab countries. The major RTAs in the Near East include the Agreement for Facilitation and Promotion of Intra-Arab Trade, the Council for Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), the Economic Co-operation Organisation (ECO), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU). All these groupings have in common the objective of promoting intra-regional agricultural trade and co-operation among member countries. Despite all these agreements, the performance of intra-regional trade, including agricultural trade, remained low and stagnant. The salient features of the overall regional agricultural trade include the following:
Therefore, the impact of existing RTAs on intra-regional trade in the NE, despite the many provisions offered for the removal of trade barriers among member countries, was limited and marginal. The present regional economic co-operation mechanisms might be necessary but not sufficient devices for the expansion of intra-regional trade and therefore any liberalization efforts per se would have little effect on intra-regional trade.
Food security is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Food security will be affected by international trade in general and agricultural trade in particular. Increased intra-regional agricultural trade could also promote food security in the following ways: (a) the increased intra-regional trade fosters economic growth and increases employment prospects and the income-earning capacities of the poor; it will enhance access to food. Whether regional integration promotes overall economic growth or not will depend on the design of the agreement, and whether it succeeds in promoting more trade creation rather than trade diversion; (b) by augmenting domestic food supplies to meet consumption needs; and (c) by reducing overall food supply variability.
For intra-regional agricultural trade to impact positively on food security, barriers to such trade must first be reduced or eliminated. Trade facilitation measures which can be taken on an inter-governmental basis (improved information on market opportunities, reduced frontier formalities, recognition of the mutual equivalence of SPS controls, etc.) are important in this context. Improved physical infrastructure for transport, communications and payments between members of a regional grouping is paramount, in countries where inadequate infrastructure (land locked countries like Kazakhstan) remains a huge constraint to increasing intra-regional trade. Finally, trade policy barriers arising from differences in the stance of domestic agricultural policies will need to be addressed.
In an effort to intensify its co-operation with REOs, FAO has collaborated with many REOs in the formulation of the Regional Strategies for Food Security (RSFS) and the follow-up Regional Programmes for Food Security (RPFS). The Regional Strategies are based on the key policy recommendations of the "National Agricultural Development Strategies - Horizon 2010" prepared by individual countries, as a follow-up recommendation of the WFS in 1996. They identify areas requiring investment and technical support for agricultural development and food security, including the national Special Program for Food Security in those countries where it is operative.
A typical RPFS consists of three components:
In the Near East, most countries face major challenges in achieving the desired goals of sustainable agricultural development and food security in-spite of the serious and progressive national efforts. It is evident that trade barriers and lack of common programmes to eliminate the several institutional, political, economic and other constraints, are hindering the expansion of intra-regional trade among the countries of the region and even within the member countries of the existing REOs. Accordingly, there seem to be a need for Regional Programmes to supplement national programmes and to strengthen efforts in areas of common interest, and where collective planning and actions proves to be cost effective and economical.
With technical assistance from FAO, preparations for the formulation of RPFS are currently underway by two REOs from the Near East region, namely the Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU) and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). Preparations have been recently initiated for the possible formulation of an RPFS for the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU).
There are two types of linkages: the direct links (policy coordination), and the indirect ones. In turn, the indirect links are divided into functional cooperation and institutional coordination. The direct linkage includes: policy coordination, harmonization of trade policies, common policy decisions, integration of policies, and common strategies/policies. Whereas the functional indirect linkage includes: cooperation in statistics and information systems, education and research, managing common resources, creating river basin and groundwater organizations, and combating common problems like transboundry diseases. The coordination among institutions is required to enable the smooth flow of economic activities among member countries. It represents another indirect type of linkages among member countries' policies/strategies. Fields of institutional cooperation include (but are not necessarily confined to) the changing role of the state, marketing and financial institutions, property rights, regulatory frameworks and institutions governing international dimensions.
Based on the above, most of the countries and the REOs seem to agree on the following as the major areas to spearhead the process of linking regional with national priorities in the Near East:
The following Priorities are also crucial to some countries:
In conclusion and in order to identify a regional initiative for a REO to be implemented at a regional level, such initiative should take into consideration the following: