Securing the region’s food suppy – The APEC policy partnership on food security Address by Stephen Jacobi to Global Food Safety Forum, Dunedin, 14 November 2013

by | Nov 14, 2014 | Speeches

It’s a pleasure to be with today and to join in welcoming our Chinese, American and other guests to New Zealand.

“Nothing, other than peace and physical security, trumps food security and in the worst of times they may not be distinguishable”

Those words are not mine, they were spoken by New Zealand’s Trade Minister, Tim Groser, in an address to the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington in May 2012.

The Minister was referring to the critical need of governments to ensure both food supply and food quality for their people.

Sustaining food security has always been one of the most important goals for all governments and especially in China.

Discussion at this conference has focused on the key issue of food safety, which itself part of a broader dimension of food security.

Food safety helps promote food security.

Food security is achieved when all people have access to safe and nutritious food, yet today we are far from achieving that goal.

Some 8 million people around the world die of malnutrition each year, most of them children.

In the Asia Pacific region, where significant progress has been made to lift millions of people out of poverty, there are still too many who suffer from hunger, malnutrition and under-nourishment.

Even in economies where food is relatively plentiful there are issues of food waste, high food prices and challenges to the integrity of the supply chain.

This morning I’d like to speak to you about the work of a relatively new body, the APEC Policy Partnership on Food Security (“PPFS”).

PPFS marks the first time within the 21 member economies of APEC that a structured effort has been made to engage the private sector in a dialogue about how to devise and implement policies to address food security.

I’m speaking to you today from the perspective of business, and as an Alternate Member for New Zealand of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

First I’ll outline the goals of APEC, which takes on special significance as it is being chaired by China in 2014, then move on to introduce PPFS and its work programme, which includes attention to food safety issues.

Then I’ll speak about a series of meetings being held in New Zealand in February 2014, which hopefully will provide an opportunity for New Zealand and China to develop further co-operation on food in the APEC context.

About APEC

In his address to the Bali APEC CEO Summit in October, the President of China, Xi Jinping, said that “China hopes to join hands and be in one mind with Asia-Pacific partners to jointly build a better Asia-Pacific that will guide the world and benefit all parties and future generations”.

The President was pointing to APEC’s essential role of building the foundations of the Asia Pacific Community.

As most of you will know, APEC stands for “Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation”.

APEC is a grouping of 21 economies on both sides of the Pacific.

It’s the region’s pre-eminent body charged with finding both policy and practical solutions to facilitate regional trade and investment and thereby promote jobs and growth.

Some of you may have the APEC Business Travel Card that once granted enables visa-free access for business people to most of APEC’s economies.

That is a tangible expression of APEC usefulness to those New Zealanders who do business and visit China on a regular basis ? with the ABTC no visa is required!

APEC is a voluntary body and its decisions are non-binding.

At the highest level, APEC Economic Leaders meet once a year in their annual Summit, which just took place in Bali, and which will take place again in Beijing in October 2014.

Beneath this APEC Ministers meet regularly – China plans to bring together Food and Agriculture Ministers in September next year – and there is a significant work programme directed by APEC Senior Officials.

The work programme encompasses food issues because in order for the benefits of free and open trade to be experienced throughout the region food quality and safety and food availability and cost are all critical.

So APEC works to promote productivity and growth in the agricultural sector, to encourage the development of new agricultural technologies and to facilitate food trade.

In the area of food safety APEC works to ensure that food products traded in the region are safe for consumption, to enhance regulatory, inspection and certification systems, to encourage the adoption of international food standards and to promote regional co-operation on food safety issues.

But APEC is not just about the work of governments.

Business leaders in APEC are brought together at the annual APEC CEO Summit and in the APEC Business Advisory Council.

ABAC exists to advise APEC’s Economic Leaders on their agenda for economic integration and co-operation in the region.

The role of ABAC is to ensure this agenda is grounded in commercial reality and makes business sense.

ABAC is made up of three business leaders for each of APEC’s 21 economies appointed by our respective Heads of Government.

Ning Gaoning, Chairman of COFCO, Wang Lili of the Industrial and Commercial Bank and Yang Yunsong of XY Group International are all ABAC members for China.

Tony Nowell, Wayne Boyd and Maxine Simmons are all members for New Zealand.

ABAC has been behind some of the best ideas to promote integration in the region ? the APEC Business Travel Card is just one of them.

In 2004 ABAC proposed developing an ambitious proposal to achieve a comprehensive free trade in the region known as the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

Business leaders in ABAC were even then impatient at the time being taken to put some runs on the board the goal of free and open trade in the region by 2020 which had been agreed in Bogor, Indonesia, back in 1994.

ABAC advocated strongly for FTAAP and 2006 at the APEC Leaders’ Summit in Hanoi President Bush proposed that APEC adopt the vision of FTAAP.

Some good ideas take time to be achieved.

Today we are being brought closer to the goal as a result to two negotiations that are seen as pathways to FTAAP ? the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

TPP which involves 12 economies including the United States commenced some years before RCEP which includes China and other Asian economies.

New Zealand is involved in both negotiations giving us an interesting perspective on the process.

In Wellington yesterday I addressed a conference which asked whether these initiatives were all headed in the same direction.

I said I thought so, I just wasn’t sure which direction that was!

In fact both TPP and RCEP provide us a means to get to FTAAP provided they can both grow beyond their current membership.

Business people and policy makers have an interest in seeing the process of regional economic integration develop in an orderly and systematic fashion.

It’s clear that FTAAP cannot be achieved without all economies in the region including China and the United States being involved.

We have a lot of work to do before this happens but it is very pleasing to see interest in TPP in China moving beyond academic circles.

As with the Chinese leadership’s momentous decision to join the World Trade Organisation I’m sure that when the day comes China’s interest in region-wide free trade will bring many benefits for the Asia Pacific community.

FTAAP was a business idea ? ABAC had another great idea and this one relates directly to food and was the precursor to today’s Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS)

About PPFS

It was in the late 1990s that ABAC, under the influence of ABAC New Zealand members, first proposed a unified APEC Food System.

By use of the term “food system” ABAC was seeking to underscore that the region’s growing food issues needed to be addressed in a strategic way.

The APEC region continues to represent a cross-section of food needs.

Some economies in the region still experience extreme poverty with the poor heavily reliant on subsistence agriculture and the urban poor exposed to hunger as a result of periodically spiking food prices and occasional food shortages.

Other economies have high or rapidly rising per capita incomes which transform diets, increase demands of different types of food and healthier diets.

Typically consumers use their income first to buy food, and then to buy other products and services with what is left over.

If food cannot be kept abundant, safe and affordable through effective technology, policy and trade responses, then not only are consumers affected but all businesses will suffer.

Typically, back then as all too often today, governments sought to address food issues in a piecemeal fashion often with perverse effects.

For example trade policies which restrict imports or exports on the grounds of protecting farmers’ incomes or availability of domestic supply do nothing to improve farmers’ productivity which is vital for expanding production.

The APEC Food System was adopted by APEC Economic Leaders in Auckland in November 1999 with Leaders declaring that “A robust regional food system that efficiently links food production, food processing and consumption, is a vital contribution to meeting the objectives of APEC”.

Unfortunately to the great disappointment of ABAC, and to the detriment of many in the region, the APEC Food System was never effectively implemented by governments.

So in 2008, against the background of rapidly increasing commodity prices and food spikes in some economies, ABAC tried again.

ABAC launched the “Strategic Framework for Food Security in APEC”, a study containing four key recommendations to APEC governments:

  • undertake a comprehensive Food System Approach, as recommended by ABAC back in 1999
  • establish a high-level Food Dialogue between officials and food industry representatives
  • end export restrictions; and
  • advance the Doha agricultural negotiations.

Further strong advocacy in 2010 and 2011 led to the establishment of today’s Policy Partnership on Food Security.

This is in effect the high level dialogue bringing together both officials and business leaders in an effort to find and implement creative, business-like solutions.

PPFS has a clear mandate to work to achieve an APEC Food System by 2020 which aligns with the target date for the achievement of FTAAP.

After a somewhat slow start, in 2013 some good progress has been made.

An overarching Road Map to 2020 sets out a strategic vision for achieving the goal and three working groups have been established to make concrete progress against the vision:

  • sustainable development of agriculture and fishery sectors
  • facilitating investment and infrastructure development
  • enhancing trade and markets.

New Zealand is honoured to lead the third of these ? Tony Nowell, a member of ABAC New Zealand with a distinguished career at CEO level in the global food industry is the Chair.

Food safety and related issue falls within the mandate of this working group.

As you here will know only too well, food safety concerns arise in a number of ways and they often impact most heavily on trade.

Disruptions to trade can be overcome by more effective co-operation between regulators in importing and exporting countries.

Moves to promote regulatory coherence ? by which we don’t necessarily mean harmonisation ? and the adoption of international standards can also ease the flow of trade.

The point is that a system wide approach is critical both from a trade and food security perspective.

Differing standards, customs practices, regulatory frameworks and data requirements can jeopardise food safety objectives and create unnecessary hurdles to food production, processing and trade.

Today’s conference is timely in that the objectives for the food safety work stream are yet to be determined.

We are therefore keen to hear from you about what you as practitioners would find most useful for us to focus on in the APEC context.

Devising a set of global data standards to facilitate trade, achieving regionally consistent food safety regulations and developing best practice in terms of cold chain are good places to start.

Ultimately the PPFS will only be successful if we can bring a business focus to this work and develop practical and achievable projects.

At this stage therefore all ideas are gratefully accepted !

About Auckland February 2014

An opportunity to deepen regional co-operation at the business level, and particularly between China and New Zealand, will arise next February when New Zealand hosts the first meeting for ABAC for 2014.

ABAC meets four times a year around the region to develop its recommendations for APEC Economic Leaders.

We are honoured and delighted that ABAC China has invited New Zealand to host this first event and we in ABAC are working closely with BusinessNZ as the country’s peak business organisation to stage a memorable and useful event.

ABAC’s agenda is likely to include attention to food security and food safety issues in preparation for this year’s meeting of the PPFS which we understand will take place in China in September.

In addition we understand that the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) will bring a senior delegation to New Zealand at the same time as the ABAC meeting.

This could provide an excellent opportunity to further today’s discussion and to put in place some more practical projects between China and New Zealand which could then be taken up more widely in PPFS.

I am sure the New Zealand Government and the New Zealand food industry would be interested to co-operate in developing an opportuninty for the two sides to come together in this way next February.

I’d be pleased to hear from people in this room about your interest in deepening the food safety and food security dialogue next February.

Conclusion

In Bali President Xi Jinping said that Xi Jinping said that the Asia-Pacific is the space for China’s joint development with other economies – “ we all are sailing ships moving forward in the sea of the Asia-Pacific”.

One of these ships is SS Food Security and one of the tugboats is food safety.

The Asia Pacific can only become a seamless economic space if the region’s economies working together address the region’s food needs in a systematic, strategic way.

The goals of free and open trade and investment need to incorporate a food dimension and food safety is of primary importance for governments, businesses, producers and consumers.

This can only be achieved by government and business working together ? a platform for this is provided by the APEC Policy Partnership for Food Security.

Under Chinese leadership of APEC in 2014, and with the ABAC meeting being held in Auckland in February, we have a unique opportunity to deepen our bilateral food co-operation and to offer this for the service of the wider region.

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