Opening Statement by
the Representative of the Director-General of FAO
Distinguished Delegates and Observers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the privilege and pleasure of welcoming you, on behalf of Dr Jacques Diouf, the Director-General of FAO, to the Seventh Session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade of the Committee on Fisheries. It is the third time that the Sub-Committee is meeting here in Bremen and as on previous occasions, it is possible thanks to the very generous invitation of the Senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. FAO is grateful for this invitation and generosity, which enables the Organization to respond to increasing demands for FAO's role as a forum for international consultations and for the sharing of experience in relation to technical issues of international trade in fish and fishery products.
Globalization is presently of high importance and of high profile in the public debate particularly in the trade arena and international trade in fish products is no exception to this. We all know that some look at globalization and its implication with deep concern, others perceive it as a chance for a better future. The truth is that it can be both. Hence, globalization presents chances and risks and therefore it requires considerate action in the sense of the world's fisheries and aquaculture industries taking advantage of the evolving situation, and, at the same time, limiting the risks, if they cannot be eliminated completely. A possible translation of the chances and risks into the reality of international trade in fishery products would seem to be the creation of the global fish market as a chance, and as a risk an undesirable distribution of the benefits generated by the global market. The reality of risks and opportunities in international trade could be clearly reflected in the creation of a truly global fish market, but that could be at the risk of undesirable distribution of the benefits that can be created by the global market. In the course of this meeting you will have the opportunity to share experiences in this connection. There may be uneasiness; however, the dilemma can be overcome if we make up our mind and decide whether we want the conservation of fishery resources and whether we want trade to make a contribution to this end. We have to make up our mind if we are going to use trade measures in an attempt to conserve fishery resources.
Scientific research shows that despite the internationalization of food production and processing as well as food habits, there are regional niches in the global markets which maintain their importance and at times it may appear that this regionalization can hinder the process of globalization. Obviously, it depends on its strength in the market, the preferences of producers and consumers whether a regional market niche can successfully compete with the rather strong forces of globalization.
What I would wish to express here is that we should not overlook regional or national realities (preferences) when debating the positive and negative impacts of globalization. Nevertheless, the process of globalization marks the present day world and according to John Paul II it is an opportunity for enabling humanity to become a single family, built on the values of justice, equity and solidarity in order to realize the promising opportunities. For this to happen, the concept of prosperity needs to be widened beyond the narrow utilitarian perspective. The Pope invites all concerned "...... to recognize the urgency of the need to ensure that economic practices and related policies have as their aim the good of every person...". In the words of the Commission of the European Communities the "... objective must be to make globalization compatible with the common interest of society". It seems that in a similar line of thinking the slogan of the last decade of the last century "Trade not aid" is being replaced by a more integral approach reflected in "Trade and aid" voiced at UNCTAD X last month.
For FAO I can say that we expect continuing globalization and liberalization of trade, including food and agricultural trade. FAO's mission is to help build a food-secure world for present and future generations and one of the strategies applied includes reinforcing policy and regulatory frameworks for food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry and specifically international instruments concerning the "..... fair exchange of agricultural, fishery and forestry goods." One of those instruments is the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the implementation of which was called for as urgent by the Meeting of Ministers responsible for fisheries in March 1999. Another event in FAO after the Twenty-third Session of the COFI, of which the Sub-Committee may take note, was the Ministerial Meeting on Small Island Developing States, a group of countries for which fisheries constitute a major natural resource base.
It will be your task during this Session to analyse the status and development outlook of the participation of developing countries in the international trade in fishery products and to consider enhancing international cooperation in this field. You will discuss aspects of responsible fish trade connected with the Code of Conduct and - as mentioned earlier - issues of globalization and implications for international fish trade and food security. The proposed agenda provides for discussion on the implementation of the World Trade Organization's agreements and issues possibly related to future Multilateral Trade Negotiations. I say "possibly" because the agenda and modalities of the Millennium Round are not known yet. We are all aware of this.
As the International Commodity Body for fishery products recognized by the Common Fund for Commodities, the Sub-Committee is invited to review its projects financed by the Common Fund and to propose new projects for preparation. Finally, you will have the opportunity to comment on trade related aspects of the implementation of the FAO Strategic Framework from which I quoted a few moments ago.
The report of this meeting will be submitted to the Twenty-fourth Session of the Committee on Fisheries, which is scheduled to take place in Rome from 26 February to 2 March 2001.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you are aware, the Director-General is taking a close personal interest in the work of the Sub-Committee and as I informed you already at the previous session he has given high priority to the technical assistance which FAO members may require in the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements as well as assistance needs related to future negotiations. This programme led by the FAO Commodities and Trade Division is in progress. However, coverage of fish trade issues has been limited so far due to financial constraints. We hope that additional efforts, which we intend to deliver through the Regional Fish Marketing Services, will close some of the gaps left in the Umbrella Training Programme I was referring to.
Before concluding, I should like to remind you that twenty years have passed since the report by the Independent Commission on International Development Issues under the Chairmanship of Willy Brandt, was published: "North-South: a Programme for Survival". It acknowledged the importance of fisheries and aquaculture and the need to reform international trade rules. Some of the recommendations, for example the creation of the World Trade Organization, have been implemented. With the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries we have the requested means of international cooperation for the conservation and management of fisheries resources. In these twenty years we have witnessed major changes, some of them fundamental, on the global scene; however, not fundamental enough to correspond to the Brandt Commission's request to establish unity among East and West, North and South to overcome what at the time had been characterized as "prospects for the future are alarming". I hope and wish you success in making a contribution, albeit small it may appear. It will be an essential contribution.
I should like to conclude by conveying the best wishes of the Director-General and myself for a fruitful session, which will be aiming to improve and safeguard current and future international trade in fishery products.
Thank you very much.