At forum in Geneva, IICA and permanent missions to the WTO of 15 countries in the Americas highlight sustainable agricultural practices to guarantee food security in the region
San José, September 26, 2023 (IICA). During this year’s Public Forum of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, the permanent missions of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), organized an event entitled “Harnessing the Potential of Latin America: Pioneering Sustainable Agriculture to Guarantee World Food Security.”
The panelists at the activity were Daniel Legarda, Minister of Production, Foreign Trade, Investment and Fisheries of Ecuador; Carla Caballeros, Executive Director of the Chamber of Agriculture of Guatemala; Paulina Carrasco, dairy producer and President of the Association of Milk Producers of Chile’s Los Ríos Region; and Ana María Schmidt, organic coffee producer and exporter at Finca Montealegre in El Salvador.
The moderator was Gloria Abraham, IICA international consultant and advisor, and a former Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica, as well as her country’s former Ambassador to the WTO.
The event highlighted the key role that Latin America plays, and will continue to play, in guaranteeing food security and nutrition across the globe. Forecasts suggest that in 2028 the region will account for 25% of the net value of global agricultural and fishery exports.
With its enormous wealth of natural resources and biodiversity, including nearly 40% of the world’s ecosystems and more than half of its primary forests, Latin America has great potential to continue developing a thriving, sustainable agriculture sector, the panelists said. They also noted that the region accounts for only 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The event made it possible to disseminate the work of the public and private sectors of various countries in the region that are promoting and implementing a variety of practices aimed at improving productivity and agricultural production in a sustainable manner. In doing so, account is taken of each country’s specific environmental, ecological, productive and development circumstances, in order to contribute to national and international food security, rural development and social inclusion.
The discussions also pointed up the specific challenges that producers and exporters face when marketing their products, challenges created by the tariff and non-tariff measures and policies in support of production of third countries that generate distortions in international agricultural markets.
The speakers highlighted the importance of promoting effective international cooperation to minimize the impact on international trade in agricultural products of the measures adopted to address legitimate objectives, such as the protection of health and the environment, and to prevent them from being applied in such a way as to constitute a form of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination, or a disguised restriction on international trade.
The participants also underscored the need for substantive progress to be made in the agricultural negotiations at the WTO, in accordance with the objective established in Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture of promoting an open, market-oriented agricultural trading system that ensures fair conditions of competition for agricultural products, thus improving the prospects for growth and development in Latin American and other developing nations.
Issues raised by the countries
Minister Daniel Legarda of Ecuador emphasized some of the main challenges that the region faces with regard to its agricultural exports, such as compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary standards and other non-tariff measures that can create obstacles to international trade; private standards, which are stricter and generate additional costs; and the distortions created by subsidies in international markets.
He stressed the importance of achieving long-overdue progress with the agricultural negotiations, to reduce the distortions generated by subsidies and improve international integration into agricultural markets, and at the same time protect the environment and combat climate change.
Legarda also drew attention to the need to strike a balance among the three pillars of sustainability ¾the environmental, economic and social dimensions¾ when establishing regulations that may affect trade, and to have mechanisms in place for effective recognition of farmers’ efforts to achieve sustainable production.
Carla Caballeros, from Guatemala’s Chamber of Agriculture, explained the practices and tools that her country’s producers and exporters use to achieve profitable and sustainable agricultural production. She also highlighted the challenges posed by the conditions and requirements for accessing international markets that some importing countries implement unilaterally, failing to consider the productive and environmental circumstances in the exporting countries.
Caballeros emphasized how the WTO could facilitate the integration of agricultural producers into international markets, ensuring that international trade is carried out within a framework of clear, predictable rules, and making decisive progress in negotiations to reduce distortions created by subsidies and other policies that affect trade in agricultural products.
Paulina Carrasco, a Chilean producer, highlighted the methods and tools used to promote sustainable dairy production, through both the direct action of producers, and public-private partnerships on matters such as the certification of sustainable practices.
She referred to the challenges involved in agricultural production and the marketing of agricultural products in international markets, including the effects of climate change, supply chain vulnerability, the lack of harmonization or approval mechanisms regarding sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, and subsidies and market distortions.
Salvadoran producer Ana María Schmidt described her experiences with the production, certification, and marketing of organic coffee, underlining the need to find a balance between productivity and profitability, and respect for the environment and biodiversity.
As producers and leaders in their communities, Carrasco and Schmidt stressed the role that governments and international organizations should play, working with producers, to promote the implementation of good agricultural practices, and the need for effective mechanisms to enable producers to participate in decision-making processes on trade issues that may affect their livelihoods.
“Latin America has a key role to play in ensuring global food security and combating climate change. Producers in the region need the appropriate tools to be able to produce in an efficient, sustainable manner, and the market has to acknowledge their efforts, affording them access rather than erecting barriers to trade,” IICA consultant Gloria Abraham remarked.
This event was organized as part of the actions called for in the Declaration on the Reform of Multilateral Agricultural Trade Rules, adopted during the WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference, in June 2022 in Geneva.
It is also an example of the joint efforts of the Latin American countries and IICA, including the recently created Network of Agricultural Negotiators of Latin America, which will be further developed and expanded in the coming months.
“One of IICA’s priorities is to work with member countries, providing them with technical cooperation to help improve and increase trade in agricultural products in global markets. The creation of the network of agricultural delegates at the WTO, and participation in the organization of this event, are a demonstration of our commitment to member countries,” Abraham commented.
Institutional Communication Division.