Building on the TPP Trade Agreement: Harnessing Trade for Development and Food Security

Posted by on October 6th, 2015 | 0 Comments »

MZBy Dr. Margaret M. Zeigler, GHI Executive Director

Trade is a vital policy component of a comprehensive approach to improving global agricultural productivity and addressing food security.  The Obama Administration has built upon prior trade efforts and recently has promoted one of the most ambitious trade agendas in the past several decades.

Global trade negotiations have sought to provide more clarity and cohesion for agricultural trade.  With the October 5 agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), 12 countries making up 40 percent of global GDP will now take the next steps to approve and implement an expansion of trade in goods and services.  This will be of particular benefit to U.S. farmers and producers of agricultural goods and services, as outlined in the soon to be released 2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report ® (GAP Report®) Building Sustainable Breadbaskets.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative estimates that trade has the potential to generate $1 trillion dollars in additional global GDP, most of which would benefit developing countries. Nowhere is this more true than in Africa, a continent of great need, as well as untapped potential.


Trade must be considered a critical component of agricultural development and economic growth.  But around the world, small farmers and producers fail in their attempts to engage in value chains whose operation is governed by a complex regimen of rules, regulations, and standards that they neither know nor understand.  Likewise, governments often lack the technical knowledge and capacity to engage with a rapidly changing, complicated trading system.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s investment in government trade capacity building programs also benefits U.S. farmers.  As part of the CAFTA-DR (Central American Free Trade Agreement-Dominican Republic), every dollar invested in building the trade capacity of Central American governments has resulted in seven dollars in U.S. trade revenue. Trade is critical to the health and growth of the U.S. economy.  One million American jobs can be attributed to the $145 billion annual trade of agricultural products alone.

Trade policy IS development policy, and must be targeted to support the least among us.  Trade capacity building and rules-based systems that are predictable and harmonized will help developing country governments and producers tap into new opportunities for export to more developed markets.  The U.S. government has provided trade facilitation and capacity building support to over 50 countries, enabling them to build their ability to tap into regional and global value chains.  Future growth in regional and global trade will require a strong focus on harmonizing regulatory issues, not simply on tariff barriers.  GHI has outlined how trade can provide benefit to developing countries in a trade policy paper, co-authored with New Markets Lab.

In coming years, agricultural trade conversations must take seriously the very real challenge climate change presents to the global food system and its ability to provide sufficient food, fiber, and fuel for 9.7 billion people in 2050.  GHI’s upcoming 2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®) Building Sustainable Breadbaskets provides insights into how trade, productivity and conservation practices can work together to enable more sustainable agriculture and food systems.

The Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) and New Markets Lab introduced a policy report on international trade, agriculture, and development in January, 2014.  The report demonstrated the importance of moving forward to integrate small and medium scale farmers into regional and global trading systems.  The report overview was presented by Katrin Kuhlmann of New Markets Lab, a GHI Consultative Partner organization.

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