FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Experts form network on CIS agri-food trade policy

Eastern European and Central Asian countries have a new arena for sharing knowledge as they continue to develop agri-trade policies or negotiate trade agreements.

The CIS Agricultural and Trade Policy Expert Network, which held its inaugural meeting at FAO headquarters in Rome this week, brought together more than a dozen experts in trade policy from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The network provides a neutral and independent platform to exchange ideas and collaborate on international agricultural trade issues in the region.

CIS countries are actively forging bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, and many are engaged at various stages of the process for joining the World Trade Organization. But their experience with agricultural trade lags behind other regions, which affects their ability to negotiate and comply with trade commitments.

Part of the problem is a lack of access to essential information and knowledge. For example, an FAO survey of regional government agencies, agro-industries, and associations in Russian Federation revealed that 83 percent of surveyed personnel do not have access to educational and training materials on WTO accession.

The new CIS expert network, formed with FAO’s assistance, aims to fill the knowledge gap on procedures governing international trade. It brings together experts who conduct research, lead training programmes, and advise government and industry on agricultural trade policy, including regional and multilateral trade agreements. The network also intends to collaborate closely on projects related to agricultural trade in the CIS region, from producing new research to drafting policy recommendations.

By consolidating and enhancing regional expertise, the network is expected to help governments improve their capacity to effectively deliver smart agricultural policy. Countries need to stay current on international regulations to improve their own regulatory frameworks, such as sanitary standards and market information, and advise their agricultural sectors on trade.

At the expert network’s first meeting on 15-16 December, more than a dozen economists and legal experts from Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia discussed their individual work and drafted a collective work plan for 2015-2016. FAO expects the network to grow and attract experts from other CIS countries in the future.

Representatives from the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies in Germany also participated in the meeting, as well as representatives from FAO’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and from the Organization’s Trade and Markets division.

19 December, 2014, Rome, Italy