This session aimed to raise awareness about the interlinkages in agriculture negotiations at the WTO and the UNFCCC, with a view to promoting a more resilient, development- oriented and sustainable agriculture. Both the trade and climate change policymakers and negotiators have agriculture on their agenda, and it is critical that they do not act in silos in order to avoid duplication and contradiction with each other. The agriculture sector has been facing tremendous crises of several forms, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Ukraine war, and worsened by the well-known effects of climate change on the agro-value chains worldwide. The sector needs better resilience, to ensure food is produced, accessed and distributed in a fair and sustainable manner.
Agriculture is a key sector for climate change adaptation and mitigation as well as for the livelihoods, particularly in developing countries. Agriculture negotiations are complex both in the WTO and the UNFCCC be cause it involves multiplicity of interests. Multilateral outcomes and solutions, in the WTO and UNFCCC, require fully taking into account the economic, social and environmental aspects, and adopting a multi-stakeholder approach. Some of the existing concepts and approaches in the WTO and UNFCCC can be used to synergise agriculture in the two fora. These include: Special and differential treatment for developing countries in the WTO and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities in the UNFCCC, climate finance and Aid for Trade, technology transfer, and capacity building.
Panellists offered many practical suggestions to deal with the agriculture in the WTO and UNFCCC in a coherent manner. Reform of agricultural subsidies was a common theme. Some other suggestions included: aligning measures in the Green Box of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture with the measures in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); making the objective in Article 2 of the UNFCCC Paris Agreement paramount for all multilateral endeavours; changing production methods; avoiding unilateral measures that do not correspond with multilateral rules; building on the success in the WTO fisheries negotiations (the first WTO agreement to specifically addresses both the trade and environmental dimensions) achieved at the recently held 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO to reach an outcome on agriculture at the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference; and taking into account the specific circumstances of individual developing countries.
While all panellists agreed on the need for a comprehensive approach to agriculture, one panellist also suggested a Global Food System Reset to ensure that enhancing agricultural productivity and sustainability are complimentary and not mutually exclusive.
There was broad consensus that agriculture is both a victim of and contributor to climate change. The future of food security, livelihoods and climate will need solutions that increase agricultural productivity while reducing GHG emissions. WTO and UNFCCC agriculture negotiators should aim to work together towards this objective within their respective mandates and recognising the special economic and social importance of the sector for developing countries.
On the panel were José Valencia, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and other economic international organizations; Mikael Anzén, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the World Trade Organization (WTO); Ms Miho Shirotori, Acting Director, Division on International Trade and Commodities, UNCTAD, and Mr Ahmad Mukhtar, Senior Economist, Regional Office Cairo of the FAO. The session was moderated by Rashid S Kaukab, Executive Director, CUTS International Geneva.