According to Article 104a lit. d of the Swiss Federal Constitution, in order to ensure the supply of food to the population, the Confederation shall create the conditions for cross-border trade relations that contribute to the sustainable development of the agricultural and food sectors. Based on this Article and the obligations under Agenda 2030, Switzerland endeavours to integrate more measures (exchange of information, dialogue, reporting) within the framework of free trade agreements with third countries (e.g. Mercosur) that are intended to contribute to sustainable development in the areas of agriculture, food systems and trade. On the occasion of the expert panel we would like to present these strategies and compare them with other possible solutions (e.g. dispute settlement, certification). The expert panel is to facilitate a critical in-depth discussion of these possible solutions and their specific implementation and impacts. Practitioners, representatives of international organisations and the global South shall also take part in the panel discussion.
Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture FOAG
“Food security in the age of climate change adaptation, facing unpredictable distortions and regional crop failures, depends upon a proper mix of domestic products and imports, and thus international trade based upon international agreements and common standards. Food security also depends upon adequate soil quality for production, at home and abroad. Food security and soil quality should be deemed Common Concerns of Humankind and considered in an integrated manner. They no longer can be limited to domestic law.
A key to link trade and sustainability is product differentiation on the basis of production and process methods (PPMs). WTO jurisprudence recognises the lawfulness of such measures, provided they are adequately calibrated PPMs are not yet centrally discussed in agricultural trade in and their full potential needs to be further explored, including tariff and non-tariff measures.
The true challenge of PPMs is international cooperation, equivalence and harmonization of standards which should be developed in light food security as a Common Concern of Humankind in the age of climate change adaption.”
Thomas Cottier is Professor emeritus of European and International Economic Law at the University of Bern, a senior research fellow at the World Trade Institute, adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He was educated at the University of Berne, Switzerland, and the University of Michigan and was post-doc at the University of Cambridge. He is a board member of several journals and organizations. He was the founder and managing director of the World Trade Institute from 1999-2015 and SNF National Centre of Competence NCCR on International Trade Regulation, and before the Deputy Director General of the Swiss Intellectual Property Office and legal advisor to the Swiss Department of Foreign Economic Affairs. He served on the Swiss negotiating team of the Uruguay Round and on EFTA-EU EEA negotiations. He has been a member and chair of several GATT and WTO panels. He has published widely in international economic law.
“A trade agreement is not a “silver bullet” and cannot be the only solution to address environmental and social requirements, but it can be an important support for more sustainability. Complementary measures are needed, that aim at the political and regulatory framework, esp. from an environmental and human rights perspective.
Social and environmental provisions in the agreement should cover all relevant aspects, including deforestation and ecosystem conversion and they should be applicable through provision of strong enforcement measures, including transparency about negotiation and implementation of the agreement.
A trade agreement can be a pressure tool to ensure that the respective governments fulfil international commitments and uphold environmental and social laws and standards in their countries based on a transparent monitoring and reporting protocols. Before the trade agreement is voted, a set of ambitious environmental and social standards should be designed and ratified by all countries involved.
Civil society should be involved in the process, being provided with the formal opportunity to raise complaints related to environmental and social issues (including indigenous and local people’s rights).”
Martina Fleckenstein is the Policy Manager of the Food Practice for WWF International.
Martina has been with WWF for 27 years, dealing with conservation, agriculture and sustainable production at national and international level. Prior to taking on the policy role within the Food Practice, Martina was Director Agriculture & Land Use Change in WWF-Germany. In this role, she worked on sustainability standards, transparency in supply chains and international commodity markets. She has been responsible for projects on sustainable land use management and planning, including sustainable forest and agriculture production and initiate projects on sustainable consumption in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“International Trade cannot be sustainable under the given trade regimes/agreements and business models, as these do not reflect the true costs of production, trade & transport; i.e. they do not even intent to internalize the true social & environmental costs they cause.
Therefore it follows, that such international trade agreements cannot be sustainable and will cause additional damage to social structures & natural ecosystems.
More of the same non-sustainable approach to trade will only worsen the global social & environmental crisis.”
“Handelsabkommen lösen eine positive Dynamik aus für Unternehmen, die hier und dort im Sinne der Nachhaltigkeit arbeiten. Solche Abkommen helfen, konkrete Resultate beim Klimaschutz und bei der nachhaltigen Nutzung der natürlichen Ressourcen zu erreichen.
Die Migros hat sich schon immer für offene Märkte und für Handelsabkommen eingesetzt. Wenn es der Wirtschaft gut geht, profitieren auch unsere Kundinnen und Kunden. Dadurch steigt die Zahlungsbereitschaft für nachhaltige Mehrleistungen.
Handelsabkommen sind ein wichtiges Element für die Ernährungssicherheit und für nachhaltige Entwicklung. Sie schaffen stabile Rahmenbedingungen für den Handel und ermöglichen uns, Produkte nachhaltig zu beschaffen und mit unseren Lieferanten langfristige Partnerschaften einzugehen.”
Unfortunately, this information is only available in German.