From August 23 to 30, the Fifth APEC Ministerial Conference on Food Security was held in southern Chile, in Puerto Varas. Following the meeting, a declaration was published containing a collective appeal to help create a more integrated, intelligent and sustainable food system. What are the tasks and challenges facing the APEC in the field of agriculture? In what direction are the Forum participants going to move?
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum is an interstate bloc created to promote economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. Today, the APEC participants are 21 countries and territories: Australia, Brunei, Vietnam, Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of the PRC), Indonesia, Canada, China, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Singapore, USA, Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines, Chile and Japan. The Forum participants are called “economies”. The main objectives of the block are: to strengthen the economic growth of the countries of the region; mutual trade development; elimination of restrictions on movement between countries of goods, services and capital in accordance with the WTO standards. The main long-term goal of the organization’s participants is: deepening intra-regional economic relations by removing obstacles to trade, investment and technological interaction. Within the framework of the APEC Forum, regional rules for conducting trade, investment, economic and scientific-technical cooperation, infrastructure development, and improving the welfare of the participating countries are developed and implemented.
The main theme of the Fifth APEC Ministerial Conference, which took place in Puerto Varas from August 23 to 30, was a call for associativity, the development of food policy and the modernization of agriculture. The Chilean Minister of Agriculture Antonio Walker (José Antonio Walker Prieto) noted in his speech that the Forum is extremely concerned about the environment, and stressed that his country is facing the worst drought in 60 years. Walker cited data provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), according to which, in 2050 our planet will need 70% more food, while products will need to be produced with less water, less soil, as well as through sustainable development tools. According to Walker, Chile has committed itself to producing healthy foods, to implementing measures to combat the depletion of natural resources, to protect the state’s water resources and, in addition, to pursue a sustainable and environmentally friendly policy. At the same time, he considers it necessary to strengthen trade relations between the APEC participants so that the 21 “economies” are more and more open for free trade, for this purpose, international chains for creating the final cost of products should be improved.
In turn, the Deputy Minister of International Economic Relations of Chile, Rodrigo Yáñez (Rodrigo Yáñez Benítez), focused the attention of the Conference participants on the fact that the Chilean government intends to attach great importance to sustainability and food security in a context with general “tension” and protectionist tendencies, with faced by the union. He emphasized that Chile, as a reliable food supplier, bases its economic growth of exports, except copper, on food. Yáñez also called for focusing the discussion on the APEC agenda on international food security and noted that agricultural sustainability was a “very important” issue for his country, which initiated the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25).
The FAO General Director Qu Dongyu, who was unable to attend a meeting in Puerto Varas, addressed the audience through a video conference and noted that the international community had reached a critical point in food security. He regretted that, according to official figures, in 2018, 820 million people were affected by food problems and faced with the effects of climate change. In his address, Qu Dongyu advocated promoting the development of digital technologies in agriculture, which is one of the main tasks of the FAO.
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China Yu Xinrong, in his speech, drew attention to the need for collective efforts to ensure food security of the APEC economic entities, strengthen stability, improve the quality and standard of living of people.
The Fifth APEC Ministerial Conference hosted approximately 135 events, including group meetings, seminars and workshops. On the sidelines of the meeting, about 2500 delegates and experts from the APEC countries discussed various topics, including health care, services, food security, the digital economy, the fight against corruption and transparency of agricultural policy. In addition, issues related to ocean issues and fishing, intellectual property, customs, science, technology, innovation, and emergency preparedness were raised.
Following the Conference, all APEC members signed a joint Declaration on food security. The document lists the threats and challenges faced by the countries of the Forum, including climate change, increased natural disasters, reduced biodiversity, the emergence of new agricultural pests, and others. The Declaration emphasizes that important resources for overcoming them are innovations, new technologies, including those related to digital identification, as well as the expansion of international and regional cooperation.
A remarkable fact is that at the meeting of ministers in Chile, most of the “economies” expressed support for the WTO, but at the same time recognized the need for reforming it in three areas at once: monitoring obligations, the negotiation process, and resolving disputes. Many APEC members criticized the protectionist measures imposed by the United States, noting the need to follow the rules. How the Forum will be able to agree with the WTO is still unclear, however, the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Food Security has laid a solid foundation for a new process of change that will affect the leading “economies” of the planet.