Aligning trade with sustainable development: Brussels round-table traces out steps towards integrated sustainable food policy

Policymakers came together on Tuesday May 2 with scientists, civil society groups and food and farming industry representatives to debate the role of trade in the sustainable food systems of the future.

The round-table meeting, convened in Brussels by IPES-Food and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), saw agreement on the need for the EU to go further in order to reconcile trade and development objectives - ‘policy coherence’.

Participants underlined the need for new governance structures to reconcile agri-trade objectives with sustainable development goals, and for new forms of long-term engagement to support developing countries to become less reliant on imported foods.

The meeting was opened by Karl Falkenberg, Senior Adviser for Sustainable Development to the President of the European Commission, and marked the fourth in a series of Policy Labs organized by IPES-Food in order to identify a ‘Common Food Policy’ vision for the EU.

Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of IPES-Food, welcomed the rich exchange of views, stating:  “Many countries in the world, and particularly some of the poorest, continue to be over-reliant on imports of staple foods, and to over-specialize in a handful of commodities.”

“What matters most is to ensure that multi-year strategies are in place - in the EU and in developing countries- for delivering food security, sustainable land and resource management, and sustainable food systems, without remaining hostage to short-term considerations and the veto of powerful players whom the status quo best serves.” He added: “We need to align policies with these goals. Trade policies and trade agreements are a key piece of this puzzle.”

A Policy Brief on the Trade-Development-Environment nexus will be released by IPES-Food later in 2017, drawing on the discussion at this week’s round-table meeting.

The context of this week’s Policy Lab is a 3-year process of research and reflection launched by IPES-Food to identify what policy tools would be required to deliver sustainable food systems in Europe – or a ‘Common Food Policy’ vision (read the concept note and the Politico op ed by Olivier De Schutter and Slow Food’s Carlo Petrini).

The reform vision being developed by IPES-Food will be honed in the fifth and final Policy Lab on ‘Access to Healthy Diets for Low Income Families’ (October - date TBC) and a series of ‘Local Labs’, allowing IPES-Food to tap into the sustainable food system initiatives and food policy processes emerging in various city-regions around Europe. The first Local Lab will take place in Turin on July 13th, and will be co-organized with IUC-Torino.