In a momentous development, two prominent international organizations have come together to address urgent global challenges. The World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have recently forged an agreement to strengthen their cooperation and collaboration in areas encompassing food and agricultural trade and climate change. This agreement, signed on December 1st, comes at a critical juncture marked by growing crises impacting global food security and sustainable agricultural practices.
The signing of a Framework Memorandum of Understanding between WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu lays the foundation for enhanced collaboration. This memorandum identifies shared areas of interest between the two organizations, providing a stable framework for future joint initiatives.
Under this Memorandum of Understanding, the WTO and FAO will deepen their collaboration across 17 common areas of interest. These include substantial support for the WTO's ongoing agricultural reform negotiations, the implementation of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies established at the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference (including projects funded through the Fisheries Funding Mechanism Trust Fund), and the annual observance of World Cotton Day on October 7th each year.
The agreement also calls for reinforced support from FAO to the WTO Committee on Agriculture (CoA) and the strengthening of existing collaboration on sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical trade barriers. Both organizations are committed to active participation in the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), hosted at the WTO, aimed at assisting developing economies in enhancing their food safety, animal, and plant health capacities to facilitate secure trade.
Recognizing the urgency of climate change concerns, the WTO and FAO will collaborate on initiatives that bridge climate and trade, including active involvement in annual COP meetings and intergovernmental processes such as the Group of Seven and Group of Twenty economies.
Furthermore, the two organizations pledge to develop joint publications covering topics of mutual interest. These publications will delve into the intricate interplay between food security, agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity, climate change, nutrition, and trade. Additionally, they have committed to undertaking cooperative technical activities and providing support for regional trade agreements, with a particular focus on the African continent.
It is worth highlighting that the WTO and FAO have already been collaborating within the framework of the UN Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy, and Finance, addressing issues such as food and fertilizer. Furthermore, they have been working together through the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), a market transparency mechanism established by the G20 economies and housed within FAO.
Additionally, FAO regularly reports on the prevailing food security situation and presents its flagship publications and research findings within the CoA, where FAO holds observer status. In return, the WTO actively participates in various FAO bodies where it enjoys observer status, including the Committee on Commodity Problems.
This groundbreaking agreement between the two organizations represents a significant step forward in addressing the complex challenges at the intersection of trade, food security, agriculture, and climate change. It reflects a shared commitment to foster global cooperation and develop innovative solutions to pressing global issues.