American feed industry trade group calls for reform of WTO

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/joxxxxjo
© GettyImages/joxxxxjo

Related tags: Afia, WTO

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and over 60 US agricultural industry stakeholders voiced support for the World Trade Organization (WTO) yesterday [September 23] but they also encouraged WTO reform, calling some of its rules outdated.

The agricultural organizations, in a letter​ to US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, stressed the importance of the transition in WTO leadership and called on him to support a new director general who can reinvigorate and facilitate its restructuring.

Last month, WTO director-general, Roberto Azevedo, resigned from his role as head of the organization, a full year before his second four-year term was set to end.

AFIA president and CEO, Constance Cullman spoke favorably about the organization, saying that without the WTO, the US feed industry would not be able to compete fairly in the global market.

The US feed sector representatives noted that, in the WTO’s first two decades, overall trade in goods has nearly quadrupled, while WTO members’ import tariffs have declined by an average of 15%. Over half of world trade is now tariff-free, they added.

In 2019, US animal feed and pet food manufacturers exported roughly US$12.5bn in products, including US$10.8bn in feed and feed ingredients and US$1.7bn in pet food products. These exports have supported US agriculture’s US$16bn trade surplus and are vital to the industry’s success, continued the AFIA.

The WTO, it added, also provides rules to guard against the arbitrary use of technical regulations or standards to block imports, such as actions associated with sanitary and phytosanitary measures that lack a clear basis in science and are protectionist in intent.

However, the US feed trade group and the other signatories argue that even though the WTO has been beneficial for US agriculture, its rules have not kept pace with changes in the global economy.

They claim improvement is needed to hold members accountable and improve the organization’s governance.

“Continued US membership [in the WTO] and active participation will help ensure that necessary reforms are undertaken and that the WTO will continue to play an important and effective role in economic development of the United States and its trading partners,”​ wrote the stakeholders. 

In an interview with the Guardian​, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s choice to replace Roberto Azevêdo as WTO director general, said poorer nations had lost faith with the WTO owing to its failure to deliver on the promise of trade liberalization focused on development, adding that the pandemic gave the organization the chance to prove its relevance.

“There has to be equitable access to medicines and the WTO could be part of the solution to that.

“The WTO has to program the rules of trade in light of Covid-19,”​ she said.

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