International trade issues constitute a major activity of LOG, especially on questions related to the multilateral trade negotiations of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) at the WTO. The 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) Plan of Action mandated 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.'
Geneva is an important outlet of FAO’s trade-related work and LOG participates directly in trade-related substantive activities taking place in Geneva, including those under the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Trade Centre (ITC), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the South Centre and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD).
LOG organizes seminars and workshops for country negotiators in Geneva, often in collaboration with Geneva-based organizations. These examine issues on agriculture under negotiation at the WTO, presenting analytical work and exploring alternative options.
Also, in line with the WFS mandate, LOG provides information and analysis to Permanent Missions in Geneva on matters of relevance to food and agriculture, in particular with regard to developments affecting global agricultural trade and issues pertaining to commodity-specific concerns.
After the stalemate in the Doha Round negotiations following the deadlock in July 2008, there has been renewed intense work at the WTO recently in an attempt to conclude the Round this year. While FAO is not participating at these negotiating sessions, LOG can be informed about the essence of their deliberations and provide appropriate timely inputs on issues that need to be resolved. These include in particular the modalities on Special Products for food security and rural development and the Special Safeguard Mechanism against food import surges. There is also renewed interest in possible strengthening of the WTO rules to deal with presently unregulated export prohibitions and restrictions which exacerbate high prices in world markets.
High world food prices, increasing food insecurity and the adverse effects of financial crisis are common preoccupations in different fora in Geneva and would require our continued attention, including how trade measures can alleviate short-term volatility and help in improving longer-term food security.
As regards the longer term, issues that have a trade connection and where FAO inputs would be important include, inter alia, the increasing use of food crops for biofuels and what is the role of trade measures to regulate this sector, climate change and how shifts in production may affect food security and trade flows, and the increasing role of speculators in agricultural commodity markets.