Bureau régional de la FAO pour le Proche-Orient et l’Afrique du Nord

Trade Integration for Food and Agricultural Commodities in Arab Countries: Challenges and Opportunities


The Regional Office for Near East and North Africa of the is organising the "Trade Integration for Food and Agricultural Commodities in Arab Countries: Challenges and Opportunities". The event will be held on July 16 and 17 at Cairo Egypt in collaboration with the League of Arab States and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) acknowledge the role that trade can play in promoting sustainable development. Food standards and trade contribute to achieving SDG 2 on zero hunger, food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture; SDG 3 on healthy lives and wellbeing; SDG 8 on economic growth, employment and work; and SDG 17 on strengthening global partnerships for sustainable development.

In our region properly functioning agricultural commodity markets are essential since the demand for food in 2030 will continue to exceed domestic production due to rapid population growth and slow uptake in yield gains. Thus the region will continue to be partially dependent on the world and intra-regional markets to meet its basic food needs, and self-sufficiency will continue on a declining trend. In the region agriculture exports also account for 30% of export earnings.

By allowing food to move across borders, trade can contribute to better availability of food supplies, both in terms of quantity and diversity in addition to providing an important mechanism to address food deficits. Trade can also help reduce price volatility in domestic markets when extreme weather events, such as droughts or floods, resulting in production losses, threatening food security. Such events are, expected to increase with climate change.

Measures to reduce the cost of importing food and the impact of world market shocks are in the forefront, and there is large potential from reforming non-tariff measures and harmonizing regulatory frameworks in the region. Regional coordination and integration in this area are key.

The Establishment of the Pan Arab Free Trade Area has a central role is designed to free trade exchange among Arab countries from various charges and restrictions imposed on it. To enhance the implementation of this Agreement the member states are working on the elimination of customs duties and other fees and duties, as well as most of the non-tariff barriers, including administrative, monetary, financial and technical barriers.

Closer economic integration could lead to overall efficiency gains as economic actors in the food and agriculture sector access larger markets for their output. Harmonization of standards, non-tariff barriers and other measures such as trade facilitation could also provide a more predictable economic environment for producers, traders and consumers.

In addition to discussing sanitary and phytosanitary updates and considerations in the main event, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Regional Office for Near East and North Africa and the FAO Representation to the Arab Republic of Egypt will also take the opportunity to celebrate the World Food Safety Day (set by UN for 7 June) in cooperation with the World Health Organization in a side event hosted in the evening of the 16th.