By Rachel Taulelei – ABAC Chair 2021
Minister O’Connor, Ministers, Heads of Delegation
Food security is a critical topic.
APEC has a broad and ambitious agenda as we seek to make the Putrajaya Vision a reality. But at the most basic level, if our people go hungry, we cannot realise our potential in any area. Achieving food security is fundamental.
There has never been a more important time for this discussion.
We are facing a climate crisis, a pandemic, and an expanding population.
We are preparing for the UN Food Systems Summit, where the world will have a chance to move closer to the Sustainable Development Goals.
We are looking ahead to the WTO Ministerial Conference, where we have a chance to eliminate fish subsidies and reform agriculture distortions.
Today’s discussion should be seen as a declaration of our commitment to a food system that actually works for our communities and our planet.
Our theme for ABAC this year is “People, Place and Prosperity”, or “Tāngata, Taiao me te Taurikura”. It could not be more apt for a discussion about food security.
We must see the food system as a whole – one where each part enables and amplifies the others.
This food system must have people and place at its heart.
I speak here not just as the Chair of ABAC. I also speak as a woman leader of a Māori food business which has as its guiding principle, “Love for the land, respect for the sea”.
The food system must be inclusive. We cannot leave anyone behind – not women, not Indigenous peoples, not small producers or small businesses.
They all need access to food. But more than that, they also need access to the economic opportunities that food production and trade can offer.
Sustainability must also be central if we hope to build resilient long-term food security.
A week ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report.
It is dismal reading. Droughts and floods will destroy crops. Increased temperatures will mean livestock suffers. Heat and humidity will make it unsafe for people to work in the fields.
There can be no excuses for equivocation or prevarication.
We must focus our creativity into adapting food production to the realities of climate change.
But mitigation has to be the starting point.
We must eliminate environmentally-harmful subsidies. Quite simply, it makes no sense to trumpet sustainability while funneling money into policies that damage the environment. First, do no harm.
That is why this year ABAC has also developed a set of Climate Change Leadership Principles.
The frightening climate change picture also makes a compelling case for ensuring that food trade works seamlessly.
We need to be able to satisfy demand, even when the supply in one economy might be blighted by weather extremes. A regional food basket allows us to do this.
But to create that basket, we need to achieve the full Bogor Goals for the food sector. That means cutting tariffs and non-tariff barriers, freeing up trade in food-related services and reducing distorting subsidies. We have argued for APEC to take the lead in these efforts at MC12, but we can do the right thing here at home too.
Finally, leveraging digital tools will help us to create a smarter, better food system – with precision farming, supply chain technologies and Global Data Standards, interoperable digital documents, fintech, e-commerce and more.
This will not ‘just happen’. We need to create the right enabling environment. That means interoperability, infrastructure, digital skills-building and fostering innovation.
I congratulate the PPFS Chair, Phil Houlding of New Zealand, and his team, for leading the development of the Roadmap. It is not as ambitious as ABAC would have liked, but it is a start.
There is a long road ahead to implement it.
The private sector is an essential companion in this journey. The reality is that food security cannot be achieved without it.
But we need the opportunity to contribute meaningfully. Collectively we need to take a hard look at reforming PPFS to ensure it can be a true partnership – or find a better instrument for private-sector involvement.
Let me conclude by affirming that ABAC stands ready to play its part in helping to achieve a resilient, vibrant APEC Food System that delivers food security to all.