Workmen at Dar Es Salaam harbour loading bags of wheat to a truck for shipment - ©FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

Increased trade in agricultural, fishery and forestry products is an essential component of most countries’ development strategies. Global and regional agreements that shape trade policies need to recognize the diverse situations and needs of countries at different levels of development.

Countries need the flexibility to address food security, poverty reduction and sustainability issues as they open their markets to trade.

FAO's role in trade

The relationship between trade and food security has been a topic of long-standing debate.

FAO supports countries’ effective engagement in the formulation of trade agreements that are conducive to improved food security by strengthening evidence on the implications of changes in trade policies, providing capacity development in the use of this evidence, and facilitating neutral dialogue away from the negotiating table.

FAO also supports countries in the design and implementation of trade policies supportive to enhanced food security.

Trade agreements

Assisting developing countries in implementing current trade agreements and in preparing for trade negotiations through studies, analysis, training and experience sharing is a core activity of FAO.

Support to the implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture and to the negotiations on agriculture under the Doha Round have been prominent activities in this area.

Regional trade agreements (RTAs), which include free trade areas, customs unions and preferential trade agreements, are becoming increasingly important.

While agriculture is an integral part of these agreements, its treatment in RTAs has been a divisive policy issue.

With a particular focus on staple food commodities in Africa, FAO supports Members with analysis and technical assistance in their efforts towards increased and mutually beneficial intra-regional trade.

Sanitary and phytosanitary standards and trade

Measures to protect the safety of food, and human, animal or plant life are important to maintaining healthy agricultural systems and healthy population.

However it is also important to ensure that these measures are not applied in a manner which constitutes hidden protectionism.

With this in mind, the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement of the WTO (SPS) regulates the use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures to ensure that they are consistent with obligations prohibiting arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination on trade between countries.

More information is available from the international standard-setting organizations:

Digital trade

The use of digital technologies can simplify trade processes, facilitate trade of safer food and integrate small producers into global markets.

FAO analyzes and builds evidence on innovations for agri-food trade and supports countries to create an enabling environment that will enable them to adapt to digital trade and benefit from it.

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