After more than a year of dedicated work and extensive consultations, the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) has achieved a unanimous consensus on the revision of the 2013 WFO Policy on International Trade.

This significant milestone underscores the tremendous effort and commitment WFO Members invested to advance a more inclusive, fair, and sustainable global trading system for agriculture. It is the culmination of a process that began in 2021 when the General Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the Organisation, adopted a resolution asking the Board to establish a Task Force to update the 2013 Policy and ensure it reflects the most recent developments of the global debate.

The revised policy recognizes trade as a central factor in achieving a more peaceful world and building better societies with efficient, resilient, and sustainable food systems, emphasizing the impact of trade policy on farmers’ ability to produce food, ensure food security, and tackle climate change.

Trade, alongside domestic agriculture, and supported by effective domestic policies, delivers an opportunity to increase food security and sovereignty in a fair and sustainable manner, while contributing to economic prosperity and sustainable development.

When it respects countries’ social and cultural specificities, trade offers consumers greater choice to purchase goods that align with their wants and values. Trade also provides farmers with more tools to improve social and environmental outcomes.

The revised policy stresses the urgent need for governments and the international community, alongside the private sector, to engage with farmers and their organisations, to keep global agricultural trade flows open and facilitate trade operations.

Improving the global trading system to make it more inclusive and fairer for all farmers is a big challenge. Still, it has the potential to increase productivity and diversification of production, promote inclusiveness, and aid in achieving many SDGs, including SDG1 No Poverty, SDG2 Zero Hunger and SDG13 Climate Action. The world is running out of time to meet the SDGs by 2030, and tragically many outcomes relating to food security have begun to go backwards.

The policy sets forth several recommendations to reinforce the global agricultural trading system, including:

  • strengthening international standards to protect human, animal, and plant life and health,
  • eliminating unlawful protectionist measures,
  • encouraging capacity building for farmers and farmers’ organizations,
  • investing in infrastructure development,
  • increasing the transparency and predictability of agricultural markets,
  • ensuring fair benefits for farmers from the opening of markets, and
  • preventing the abuse of market power.

If agriculture is to fulfil its wider economic, social and environmental role, with countries able to take account of their domestic concerns and conditions, trade policy should respect the following guiding principles:

  • fairness,
  • coherence with other international commitments,
  • respect for domestic policies,
  • adherence to science-based sanitary and phytosanitary standards,
  • special considerations for developing and least developed countries,
  • participation of farmers’ organizations in decision-making processes, and
  • the recognition of the uniqueness of agriculture in trade agreements due to its fundamental importance for food security and the well-being of rural areas.

WFO also recognizes the importance of multilateral negotiations through the World Trade Organization (WTO) and supports bilateral and regional trade agreements that contribute to achieving its objectives in a manner compatible with the WTO and the guiding principles outlined in the policy.

This historic consensus puts the WFO at the forefront of global agricultural trade discussions and policy development, advocating for the interests of farmers at the international level and contributing to shaping a more inclusive, fair and sustainable global trading system for agriculture.

It’s Time for Action! Looking forward to participating in the conversation on the future of trade at the upcoming WTO 2023 Public Forum in September 2023 and the lead-up to the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference in February 2024.