Major agricultural nations, including China, the European Union, Brazil, the United States and Canada, agreed April 22 to maintain open and predictable agricultural trade during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued through the World Trade Organization, 23 countries said national measures to protect the health of their citizens should not impede the trade of food or agricultural commodities.
“The application of export restrictions and similar trade restrictive measures on agriculture and agri-food products create an unpredictable trading environment that would adversely affect food availability and result in price spikes, increased price volatility and leads to shortages of important food products,” the statement says. “The adoption by many members of successive export restrictive measures to secure their own food security would lead to a widespread food insecurity crisis due to the disruption in global agricultural trade supply chains.”
Mary Ng, minister of small business, export promotion and international trade, said the agreement is a significant win for food security and health of people around the globe.
Specifically, the countries agreed to eight measures, with the first three being the most important:
• Ensuring that supply chains remain open and connected to preserve the movement of ag products and inputs.
• To “exercise restraint” in building up food stocks of ag products that are normally exported.
• To not impose agricultural export restrictions or trade barriers for agriculture, agri-food products and ag inputs.
If a country does implement an emergency measure related to agriculture and agri-food products, it must be “targeted, proportionate, transparent, temporary and consistent with WTO rules,” Ng said.
In #COVID19 crisis, only international trade can guarantee the food supply in those vulnerable communities; WTO rules are there to ensure predictable trade — Amb. John Deep Ford, Chair of WTO agriculture negotiation committee, told @allafrica👉https://t.co/4oPwWe1FeM pic.twitter.com/FRd2GDi6iQ
— WTO (@wto) April 22, 2020
Collectively, the 23 countries and regions represent 63 percent of global agricultural and agri-food exports and 55 percent of imports.