Clearing obstacles to global sales helps all, experts say
Much has been written about how to help many African nations make the most of their agricultural resources. Helping those farmers feed more of their fellow countrymen—and sell their goods across borders—is not only the right thing to do, in the long run, it can mean expanded markets for U.S. farmers and businesses.
A paper commissioned by the Farm Journal Foundation says it’s not “hefty import tariffs” but rather an inability to meet global sanitary and phytosanitary standards that keeps farmers in developing African nations locked out of global agricultural markets. The paper says helping this sector meet those standards would do much to link them to international export markets. And participating in the global marketplace means the potential for a better future.
That’s a win for U.S. agriculture, says Stephanie Mercier, director of policy and advocacy for the Farm Journal Foundation.
“A lot of the products produced in Africa that might be viable on the international market are things we don’t produce in the U.S.,” Mercier says. “Helping [African] farmers become more prosperous [means] the whole region becomes more prosperous, and down the road, they will be markets for us.”
The following are excerpts from the paper, which can be viewed in its entirety by visiting AgWeb.com/helpAfrica-tech.
- In the absence of a global deal (such as the stalled Doha round of the World Trade Organization), an incoming U.S. administration could leverage the nation’s technical expertise to help poor farmers in developing countries gain access to world markets.
- The bottleneck that higher value exports from developing countries face, such as fruits, vegetables and processed agricultural products, often results from an inability to meet (sanitary and phytosanitary) standards. Greater ability to comply with standards will boost trade flow and incentivize investment in agricultural value chains.
- Trade liberalization focused only on reduction in tariffs is insufficient to boost trade, as a range of non-tariff measures do not allow developing countries to fully benefit from an open market. The U.S. can shape the trade agenda as “Aid for Trade” and unilateral preference schemes did in the late 1990s and early 2000s—targeted, technical and bilateral solutions in the absence of global consensus.
Editor’s Note: The report was authored by Ammad Bahalim, an expert in trade negotiation with the Gates Foundation, and Joe Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C.