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Project

Agricultural Trade Negotiations and Sustainable Development

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One area critical to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and of pre-eminent importance to low-income countries is agriculture. This sector employs a disproportionate number of the world’s poorest people and is critical to meeting targets on food security, employment and economic growth. 
 
Multilateral rules on agriculture need to be improved if the rules-based system is to be supportive of inclusive sustainable development. However, achieving this goal requires the firm engagement of WTO Members.
 
At the WTO, agriculture trade talks are continuing on seven negotiating topics: domestic support; public stockholding for food security purposes; cotton; market access; the special safeguard mechanism; export competition; and export restrictions.
 
Although most of these issues are not new, the context in which governments are negotiating has shifted significantly since negotiations to reform the Agreement on Agriculture began. The pattern of global food and agricultural commodity production, processing, consumption and trade have all changed significantly in the intervening decades, with important implications for negotiating positions and possibilities. 
 
In the run-up to the twelfth WTO ministerial conference, IISD is supporting negotiators, especially the smallest delegations with a focus on African delegates, by ensuring they have access to current, concise and clear explanations of the issues on the negotiating agenda and their implications for agricultural sectors. IISD is also seeking to provide a space for informal discussion and debate among delegations that may not have signed the same negotiating proposals but who do share a political commitment to advancing reform of the agricultural trade rules at the WTO. 
 
With support from GIZ, IISD is partnering with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on activities tailored to support this reassessment and to shape a positive agenda for trade. The first step is to provide agriculture negotiators with a space outside the WTO negotiating rooms where they can think and speak more freely, and brainstorm with experts on what an inclusive trade agenda might involve.
 
To support this discussion in relation to agriculture, IISD is producing concise and accessible briefing and information notes that summarize the central issues arising from the sustainable development agenda and the trade talks. Governments need to make sense of how global demographic and environmental trends for agriculture will affect trade, in the context of their national and regional food-related policies. 
 
In addition to work on the WTO negotiating process, IISD activities in this project seek to capitalise on potential synergies and build understanding of other relevant processes beyond Geneva, including in particular the negotiations and preparations for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as well as the ongoing reform of domestic agricultural policies in WTO member states.
 
A list of our project's outputs are presented below
 
Events

Trade wars: what implications for agriculture in Africa and other world regions? 
10 October 10, 2019, Geneva, Switzerland
This event was organized jointly by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and  focused on the implications of trade tensions in major economies on the agricultural sectors of other countries.

20 March 2020 Virtual meeting
This event, organized jointly by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), examined the recent trends in the levels of domestic support that governments provide their agricultural sectors.
 
16-18 January 2020, Berlin, Germany
IISD took part in the annual Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) under the theme “Food for all! Trade for Secure, Diverse and Sustainable Nutrition.”
 
 
  • Report
    What National Farm Policy Trends Could Mean for Efforts to Update WTO Rules on Domestic Support

    What National Farm Policy Trends Could Mean for Efforts to Update WTO Rules on Domestic Support

    This report examines trends in agricultural domestic support across a dozen World Trade Organization members and sets forward recommendations about how global trade rules should be reformed.  Read More