From the podium

From the podium

The Honourable Warren Truss (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry of Australia)

Mr Chairman, Director General, Distinguished delegates.

It is an honour for me to address this historic Summit on behalf of my Prime Minister, the Honourable John Howard, who has asked me to pass on to you his best wishes for a successful outcome.

The World Food Summit in 1996 set the goal of halving the number of people who live in absolute poverty and a state of severe under-nourishment by 2015. We all knew at the time that this was an ambitious but necessary goal. Some progress has been made, but much more needs to be done.

Unless all Governments actively participate, we will not succeed.

In Australia's view, it is unacceptable that despite adequate global food production, huge numbers of people still go hungry.

Australia believes that the principles of food security and the Plan of Action adopted at the 1996 Summit remain valid today.

Mr Chairman, paramount amongst the challenges of today is returning agriculture to its appropriate place in development strategies. We must find ways to reverse the disturbing decline in agricultural productivity and the management of natural resources, and to increase investment sustainable agricultural development.

Policies must be adopted to meet the requirements and opportunities of the agricultural sectors in developing countries, to ensure increased food production and better distribution systems.

The current level of food insecurity means reharnessing our efforts to provide to farmers in developing countries by focusing on: sustainable agricultural systems; secure access to land and water; appropriate technologies; investment in R&D; and access to credit.

In recognition of the challenges highlighted during the 1996 Summit, the Australian Government, through our overseas agricultural aid programmes and Food Security Strategy, has worked to foster the development of agriculture and good governance to assist developing countries, particularly within our own Asia-Pacific region.

Improving production and technical assistance is important, but it is beyond dispute that international trade plays a vital role in delivering economic growth and reducing poverty in developing countries. The growth in trade in trade improves living standards, raises incomes and helps assure food security. The importance of a fair and open trading system to our food security mission is therefore undeniable.

All countries must size the opportunity presented by the WTO Doha round to secure comprehensive agricultural reform in three key areas. These are market access, domestic support, and export subsidies.

We must free up world markets and remove agricultural trade impediments.

The Doha round and "development" agenda is a huge challenge, but there can be no outcome without a substantive result on agriculture.

Australia is playing its part in assisting developing countries to participate fully in the trade round, with an emphasis on technical and policy capacity building.

In the context of this Summit review, it is very disappointing to observe that wealthy industrialized countries continue to provide massive assistance to their agricultural sectors (some one billion dollars per day).

These actions by developed countries manifestly distort markets and undermine the agricultural advancement and poverty reduction objectives of many developing countries.

Unfortunately, this trend continues despite statements to the contrary, making it even harder for developing countries to compete. Lack of real reform by key nations is sending the wrong message at a time when strong leadership is so important to success in the Doha negotiations.

The all too common recipe of subsidised exports, the disposal of uneconomic industrialized country surpluses in the guise of food aid, is surely outdated as a viable long-term solution to developing country food security needs. It is time that we gave developing countries a genuine opportunity to develop their agricultural sectors and to trade on undistorted, fair and open markets.

Export subsidies represent an aggressive undermining of markets for developing countries by encouraging non-competitive practices.

Provision must be made in the WTO negotiations for meaningful special and differential treatment for developing countries that will genuinely contribute to their agricultural development needs.

We must recognize the enormous pressures an expanding food demand is placing on our natural resources, and the benefits that research and development and new technologies can provide in ensuring our vital natural resource base is capable of meeting future food production demands.

There are excellent prospects for the sensible application of biotechnology to increase crop yields, reduce production costs and enrich staple foods through the addition of essential nutrients. We need to work together to realize the potential benefits of these scientific advancements for all.

It is also critical that relevant conventional technologies be provided to developing country farmers, especially small-scale farmers.

Australia considers the International Treaty of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture will play a vital role in enhancing global food security. The Treaty provides a framework for achieving the sustainable use of plant genetic resources and an open and fair global system for the exchange and development of such material.

Many challenges remain in developing and implementing realistic operational arrangements. Australia is committed to working with others to settle these important details. Accordingly, I am pleased to announce that Australia has joined with others in signing the Treaty at the Summit.

Mr Chairman, on behalf of Australia I have briefly highlighted some of the key issues in addressing food security.

Australia as a founding member of FAO is determined to address the economic, social and technical challenges of international agriculture, including ongoing trade distortions, which stifle development.

Food security and poverty reduction must be effectively addressed. Australia will work with all FAO members to ensure we succeed in implementing the World Food Summit Plan of Action and Summit Declaration.

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