Expert round-table

Sustainable Agriculture and Trade

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The Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs (TESS) convened an invitation-only deep dive roundtable on key aspects of the trade and sustainable agriculture interface on 14 and 15 December 2022 at Château de Penthes, Geneva.

This one and a half day in person “deep dive” brought together government officials from both developed and developing countries with leading experts from think tanks and international organizations in an informal and off-the-record setting. It provided an opportunity for in-depth discussions on key topics for attention, including:

  • The critical sustainability aspects on the trade and agriculture interface, including from social, economic and environmental perspectives;
  • Recent trends in key commodities related to trade and sustainability concerns;
  • The role of trade policies in fostering sustainable agriculture production and trade, including issues related to standards, regulations, market access and subsidies; and
  • Options for advancing deliberations on sustainable agriculture at the multilateral level while ensuring a broad-based support among WTO Members.


14 December 2022

10:00 – 10:15 | Welcome remarks

10:15 – 11:45 | Session 1: Setting the scene

This session reviewed key trends in agricultural markets and the evolution of the geography and composition of trade flows, as well as key players in agricultural markets. It also provided an overview of the economic role and benefits of ecosystem services, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture and their relevance to sustainable food systems. Finally, it reviewed the relationship between sustainable food systems and the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how these concerns are addressed under different international policy processes including the climate and biodiversity regimes.

Discussion starters (7-8 min each):

  • Ekaterina Krivonos, Trade and Markets Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • Maria Julia Oliva, UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)
  • Edwini Kessie, Agriculture & Commodities Division, World Trade Organization (WTO)
  • Rainer Lanz, Trade and Environment Division, WTO
  • Marianne Kettunen, Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs (TESS)

Open discussion among delegations

11:45 – 12:00 | Coffee/tea

12:00 – 13:00 | Session 2: Agricultural trade and key sustainability challenges

This session examined the relationship between international food and agriculture trade and critical sustainability challenges in the food system. In particular, it explored the relevance of trade and trade policies to achieving SDGs related to food, agriculture and sustainability, including goals on poverty elimination, zero hunger, global health, responsible production and consumption, climate action and life on land.

Discussion starters (5 min each):

  • Eugenio Diaz-Bonilla, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI): Agricultural trade, food security and livelihoods
  • James Vause, UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC): Agricultural trade, biodiversity and deforestation
  • Vicky Chemutai, World Bank: Agricultural trade, climate mitigation and adaptation
  • Anne Marie Thow, University of Sydney: Agricultural trade, health and nutrition

Open discussion among delegations

13:00 – 14:00 | Lunch break

14:00 – 16:00 | Session 3: Focus on key commodities

This session reviewed key trade and sustainability concerns along value chains for selected commodities. It provided an overview of the geography and composition of existing trade flow under each of these value chains, the main policies and measures affecting production and trade, as well as the different sustainability challenges and opportunities for these value chains.

Discussion starters (5 min each):

Open discussion among delegations

16:00 – 16:15 | Coffee/tea

16:15 – 18:00 | Session 4: Focus on key trade policy instruments and relevance for sustainability

This session provided an update on trade policies and measures affecting agricultural trade including border measures, domestic support measures and other economic incentives, as well as regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures. In doing so it reviewed the evolution of the global trade policy landscape with a focus on unilateral measures, regional trade agreements and multilateral cooperation, as well as the proliferation of private voluntary standards and supply chain initiatives. In each case, speakers reflected on the implications for sustainability.

16:15 – 17:00 | Session 4a: Border measures, tariffs, TRQs, export restrictions

Discussion starters(10 min):

Open discussion among delegations


15 December 2022

9:00 – 11:00 | Session 4: Focus on key trade policy instruments (cont.)

Session 4b: Domestic support programmes and agricultural sustainability

Discussion starters (10 min each):

Open discussion among delegations

11:00 – 11:15 | Coffee/tea

11:15 – 12:50 | Session 5: Next steps

This session provided an opportunity for an open discussion to assess possible options to advance inclusive international cooperation on sustainable agriculture in different venues in a way that effectively contributes to addressing critical sustainability challenges and ensures a broad-based participation of WTO Members.

Discussion starters (5- mins each):

  • Dan Esty, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy
  • David Vivas-Eugui, United Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  • Facundo Calvo, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
  • Vice Yu, FACT Dialogue Secretariat

Open discussion among delegations

12:50 – 13:00 | Concluding Remarks

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