The World Trade Organization squeaked out a win in the final hours of its summit this week in Geneva, agreeing to prohibit all of its 164 nations from refusing to provide food commodities to the World Food Program for its humanitarian efforts.
The agreement, announced early Friday, does not come close to a complete halt to nation’s bans on exporting scarce commodities, but WTO officials and others are lauding the agreement at a time when full consensus at the body is rare.
“Members shall not impose export prohibitions or restrictions on foodstuffs purchased for non-commercial humanitarian purposes by the World Food Programme,” the WTO said in a draft of the agreement published Friday morning.
But the brief, half-page announcement also noted nations’ right to lock down exports in general: “This decision shall not be construed to prevent the adoption by any member of measures to ensure its domestic food security in accordance with the relevant provisions of the WTO agreements.”
Still, the resolution is a very positive step, says Joe Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and a former USDA chief economist.
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“Exempting the World Food Program’s humanitarian aid programs from export restrictions – that’s great,” he said. “That’s been a long time coming.”
Glauber said his biggest disappointment was that the WTO was unable to revive its appellate court. The U.S. has been the primary obstacle and continues to block any appointments to the court, while it demands structural reforms to WTO.
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