A thicket of costly red tape, opaque administrative processes and arbitrary food-trade rules pose a risk to the lasting food security of the three billion people in the APEC region, a new study commissioned by the APEC Business Advisory Council suggests.
The council commissioned the report, entitled ‘Non-Tariff Barriers in Agriculture and Food Trade in APEC: Business Perspectives on Impacts and Solutions,' from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. It draws on interviews with over four hundred business people, experts and officials from around the region.
“Food insecurity exacerbates the misery of stagnating global economic growth,” said Juan Raffo, 2016 Chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council. “Food security is a fundamental building block of lasting and inclusive prosperity for our region.”
“Food trade is a critical part of the food security equation. It helps to match up supplies of safe, nutritious and affordable food with demand from around the region. But this study shows that non-tariff barriers and other forms of protectionism mean that food trade is more difficult and expensive than it should be,” Raffo added.
The study found that non-tariff measures, including non-tariff barriers, are increasing in prominence and complexity. Non-tariff barriers include opaque rules, arbitrary standards that are not based in science, and Customs and other import procedures that are slow, costly and excessive. The research showed that these barriers can raise food prices, undermine food quality, impact on food availability and impose extra burdens on small businesses.
Over half the businesses interviewed considered that the trading environment for food and agriculture products remains highly restrictive.
“Business is reporting that these non-tariff barriers can undermine the whole food supply chain. Exporting and importing food becomes expensive and complex – uncertainty and time delays can cripple small business in particular. That works against lasting food security,” said Raffo.
The report stressed the need for a concerted and sustained effort across many fronts to address non-tariff barriers.
“This study suggests that what’s needed is greater transparency, clearer timeframes and better processes for food trade before, at and behind borders. Measures should be designed to avoid impeding trade. Greater harmonization or mutual recognition of standards for labelling and food safety would help. Digital channels hold a lot of promise, too,” Raffo added.
“APEC economies have a big task ahead of them in addressing these NTBs,” commented Raffo. “But the business community is committed to helping deliver lasting food security in partnership with governments, for the benefit of all,” he concluded.
A copy of the USC Marshall School report can be found at: https://www2.abaconline.org/content/download/22613384
The APEC Business Advisory Council was created by APEC Leaders in 1995 to be the primary voice of business in APEC. Each economy has three members who are appointed by their respective Leaders. They meet four times a year in preparation for the presentation of their recommendations to the Leaders in a dialogue that is a key event in the annual Leaders Meeting.
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