National Newswatch

It must be matched by countries not creating artificial trade barriers.


Ottawa—A pledge by the G20 countries to keep international trade moving during the COVID-19 pandemic is a crucial step that needs to be matched by countries not implementing new import barriers, says the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA).

The G20 countries recently pledged to “work to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies, critical agricultural products, and other goods and services across borders, and work to resolve disruptions to the global supply chains, to support the health and well- being of all people.”

Emergency measures to protect public health should be coordinated “in ways that avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade,” the countries said.

CAFTA President Dan Darling said “it’s paramount to keep trade lines open and avoid any unnecessary disruption of supply chains, especially when it comes to ensuring the adequate production and distribution of critical agri-food products.”

That makes it  “absolutely critical that nations work together to ensure that cross-border trade remains stable and work is being done to assess and minimize the impact of the pandemic on trade and that a commitment to keep trade free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent remains at the core of the G20 trade agenda,” he said.

All G20 and WTO members and the wider international community must keep “borders open to agri-food trade by refraining from imposing any new tariffs and non-tariff barriers or other trade restrictions for global agri-food supply chains. This is absolutely essential to prevent the collapse and maintain the stability of supply chains of sectors that need to remain robust and resilient for the workers they employ and for the consumers they feed.”

While countries “may be tempted to hoard and adopt food restrictions, supply shortfalls will be best addressed though unfettered flow of products and increased production,” he said. “Taking away the possibility to sell abroad would remove the incentive for farmers, producers and food manufacturers to grow, make, and deliver safe food and feed products to where they are needed most. In these dire times, more trade is needed, not less.”

Keeping the World Trade Organization healthy is also vital because it “will be more important than ever to help us recover from this crisis. Ensuring enforceable trade rules are in place will benefit the entire agri-food sector and help us do what we do best: deliver world-class products that feed the world to every corner of the globe and maintain jobs and generate growth in rural and urban communities.”

Thinking of the future, “it is of crucial importance that Canada and governments around the world recognize that free and open trade will be vital for globally coordinated post-pandemic economic recovery efforts,” Darling said. “History has shown clearly that free and open trade is the best way to ensure a global recovery takes root. As the head of the WTO recently stated, it will be important that countries tap into each other’s growth which will help economies recover more quickly than if we try to act alone.”

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.
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