27 January 2003, Rome -- A broad
programme for training and capacity building on trade-related
issues in food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry will shortly
enter its second phase, the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization said on Monday.
It aims at
bolstering the negotiating capacity of developing countries in
the new round of trade talks.
1999, the programme offered participants, mainly government
officials dealing with agricultural trade matters, an
introduction to the key trade and food security issues relating
to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
focused on agreements affecting agricultural trade, fisheries
and forestry, as well as agreements on phytosanitary measures,
technical trade barriers and intellectual property rights.
The programme was funded by FAO with
extra-budgetary support from a number of donor countries and has
been implemented in collaboration with other international
organizations, such as WTO and UNCTAD, the World Bank, regional
and academic institutions.
phase, which will include a number of national, regional and
global workshops, will begin with a national workshop in Sri
Lanka in the third week of February. A subregional workshop for
the Organization of Eastern Caribbean Countries will also take
place in February.
The technical seminars
will enable countries to analyse the potential options and
implications of trade talks and means of strengthening their
They will also
promote dialogue between national policy makers, domestic
stakeholders, academics and civil society on issues involved in
the current round of negotiations, the "Doha
"The outcome of the first phase of this
training and capacity building programme was very
positive," said Hartwig de Haen, Assistant
Director-General, Economic and Social Department of FAO.
"Thanks to the financial support
of many donors, FAO has been able to introduce a successful
training programme intended to help developing countries and
countries in transition to become better informed and equal
partners in the ongoing multilateral trade talks," he
"However, we realise we need
to work even more closely with member states to create
individual negotiating capacities for countries and sub-regions.
We have received many requests for technical assistance from
member governments and, with the extra-budgetary support we are
seeking, we hope to be able to fulfil these needs even better in
the programme's second phase," he added.
Trade talks have entered a critical stage
and in order to meet the requests before time runs out, FAO has
organized an extraordinary meeting of donors on February 11th.
The programme presented by FAO has a total value of US$ 5.7
million and is to be implemented during the next two years.
From theory to practice
The WTO was created in 1995 with the aim of
regulating international trade. From the end of the Second World
War until the mid-nineties, world trade was regulated under the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). An overhaul of
the multilateral trading system led to the Uruguay Round of
trade talks and creation of the WTO.
round of trade negotiations was launched by the WTO at the 2001
Ministerial Conference, in Doha, Qatar, and is set to conclude
not later than 1 January 2005. The agreements reached during
these negotiations, the "Doha Round", will
have implications for the production and trade of agricultural
products in each country as well as impacting the food security
of its citizens.
It is therefore
fundamental that each country's negotiators are capable of
evaluating the potential outcomes of negotiations, so they can
take the right decision for their country.
During the first phase of the programme 14 subregional
seminars were held and 160 countries participated. Many training
techniques were used - including distance learning in the Latin
American region."Forgovernments in this region,
reducing the huge agricultural subsidies of other countries is
essential to make their agricultural exports more
competitive," said FAO expert Josť Luis Cordeu,
Coordinator of the Priority Group for Agricultural Trade in the
Latin American region. "Through workshops we were able
to find out where countries shared common ground and where there
were differences," he added.
During the training sessions experts examine
countries' dual roles as both importer and exporter. They
look at the effects of the Uruguay agreements on the
country's import and export sectors and how they affect the
competitiveness of their agriculture, in order to decide what
positions they should take in the new round of talks.
"There are a whole range of
questions to be taken into account during the negotiating
process," explained economist Harmon Thomas, Chief, FAO
Commodity Policy and Projection Service.
"Often countries do not have the human
resources they need. Some delegations have hundreds of dedicated
negotiators and groups of specialised experts, but others have
just one or a couple of experts who have to take a host of
difficult decisions - defining their country's position on
agricultural export subsidies, access to markets, health and
safety regulations or domestic support for certain products or
producers," he said.
negotiations began in 2000 and should conclude as part of the
Doha Round not later than 1 January 2005 with the signing of a
single accord by all. Countries are due to agree to the
"modalities" - the formulae and quantitative
targets for further liberalization - by the end of March this
year, following Doha's commitments: reduction of export
subsidies and domestic support, and better access to markets.
Countries are expected to have met several
negotiating deadlines by September 2003 when the WTO will hold
its fifth Ministerial Conference in Mexico where important
decisions will be taken. The negotiations will then enter their
final phase with the aim of all countries signing a single
agreement not later than 1 January 2005.
Nuria Felipe Soria
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570