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Jim Sutton speech to World Food Summit

Office of Hon Jim Sutton
Speech Notes

12 June 2002

Speech to the World Food Summit Meeting
Rome, Italy

5 Years On

Mr Chair, distinguished delegates. We are gathered here, five years after the 1996 World Food Summit, to renew our commitment to the Rome Declaration goal of halving the number of undernourished people by 2015.

This Summit is an opportunity to refocus international attention on addressing poverty through sustainable rural development and food security, fostered by robust domestic policies and an efficient and open international trading system.

The United Nations Conference on Financing for Development, held in Monterrey; the World Trade Organisation's Ministerial Meeting in Doha, which launched the Doha Development Agenda; and later this year the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, have also been and will be important in this connection.

New Zealand has a strong commitment to poverty reduction and rural development, including nutrition and food security objectives, especially in our own neighbourhood, the Pacific. We acknowledge the pressing food security concerns of Africa and the need to focus on them. We must not however lose sight of the fact that the majority of the world's poor live in Asia/Pacific.

A key theme from Monterrey that is relevant to this Summit is the matter of policy coherence for developing as well as developed countries. We must stop giving with one hand and taking with the other. National trade, economic and defence policies can undermine development efforts.

Developed and developing countries have a shared responsibility to ensure that there is coherence in policy development at all levels.

There is little point in building up say, trade capacity in developing countries, if industrialised countries - or indeed fellow developing countries - maintain market access restrictions. It's heartbreaking to develop the ability to add value only to see the rewards stripped away by tariff escalation.

That is why the New Zealand Government in 2001 removed all tariffs and quota restrictions on goods from least developed countries with no lead in times and no exceptions. We see this as a relatively painless yet effective step that developed nations can take to improve the livelihood of the world's poorest producers.

Political stability, good governance and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms are also part of the essential framework for success. Skill levels will also have to be raised to ensure the production and distribution - both internally and internationally - of safe and nutritionally adequate food in ways that are environmentally and economically sustainable.

New Zealand believes sustainable development is a vital issue. Because New Zealand's economy is based largely on food production, we have been forced to think long and hard about how to ensure our food producing industries are sustainable economically, socially and environmentally - and how to address these three pillars of sustainability in non-trade distorting ways. Our commitment to this drives our active engagement in the preparatory processes for the WSSD and in August our participation in Johannesburg.

Mr Chairman, the World Food Summit Plan of Action recognised that more open trade in agriculture is a key element in building food security and promoting economic development. All the evidence shows that trade liberalisation is one of the essential elements to growth.

New Zealand has removed systems that distorted our own markets through high levels of border protection, which damaged not just our farming sector, but also our environment and the economy as a whole. We removed those distortions, not just from agriculture but throughout our economy. The transition was not easy. Our farming sector has not only coped but grown dramatically in productivity.

We look to the new multilateral trade negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda to reduce international trade distortions, and provide greater opportunities for developing countries and efficient agricultural producers to gain the full benefits of their comparative advantage. An open trading system for agricultural goods is an essential adjunct to domestic production, and offers a reliable and cost effective strategy for food security. And the FAO must do its utmost to ensure developing countries acquire the capacity to get the most they can out of DOHA.

Liberalising trade in itself is not sufficient to achieve the World Food Summit goals. It needs to be accompanied by the range of other factors identified in the Rome Declaration and Platform for Action. Good governance and strategies for conflict prevention or resolution are particularly pertinent in many regions right now.

Mr Chairman, New Zealand welcomes the emphasis FAO is giving to the promotion of gender equality in all relevant policy and decision-making processes. Women, who do most of the world's work, have a critical role to play in reducing rural poverty and achieving food security.

We are also pleased by the civil society involvement in this Summit.

In convening this Summit, we have all been challenged to face up to the promises made six years ago. We cannot be satisfied by the rate of
progress so far. But if from now on we ensure that we are driven by the real needs of sustainable development, and resolve to be less often seduced into serving the greed of those who are more than already amply nourished, and electoral ambitions of the politicians who represent them, we can yet achieve our objectives.

Thank you


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