DUBAI – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) designed to reinforce their collaboration on agrifood trade and food safety.
The MoU, which was signed by FAO director-general QU Dongyu and WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on the margins of the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai, also broadens the two UN agencies’ partnership across the nexus between agrifood systems, trade, fisheries, climate, environment and nutrition – with a focus on women’s economic empowerment – to effectively address the prevailing food crisis.
In particular, FAO and WTO will be working together to implement the 2022 WTO agreement which prohibits subsidies that contribute to illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, impact overfished stocks or fishing on the unregulated high seas.
FAO and WTO will also bolster their cooperation to set food safety and animal health standards through sanitary and phytosanitary measures and the Standards and Trade Development Facility. These are recommendations and outlines that governments are encouraged to follow.
The two organizations will also work together to ensure that these standards and procedures are non-discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade as part of the Technical Barriers to Trade agreement.
The Memorandum will serve as an enabling framework to enhance integrated technical and policy support to countries in their SDG attainment and ensure the inclusion of small-scale farmers, fishers, forest-based small businesses, women and youth in markets and value chains, leaving no one behind.
Collaboration between the two agencies on climate and trade initiatives, technical cooperation activities and providing support for regional trade agreements with a specific focus on Africa were also part of the MoU.
In addition, the agreement recognizes the role of trade in climate change adaptation, coordination of Paris-Agreement aligned climate policies with WTO rules for promoting climate change mitigation, and free trade of food as an adaptation measure. It also strengthens ongoing work on food safety and facilitates international trade of agrifood products through sustainable plant production.
The 5-year agreement originates from a meeting held in May 2021 between Qu and Okonjo-Iweala shortly after her appointment as WTO director-general, in which the two sides had discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic had shown the importance of open trade for sustainable and resilient agrifood systems.
The next step will entail the development of a results-oriented joint action plan, including concrete country-driven initiatives.