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Regional cooperation on trade, climate change and food security in South Asia: Reflections and way forward

South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment (SAWTEE) and Oxfam organized a two-day regional meeting on “Regional cooperation on trade, climate change and food security in South Asia: Reflections and way forward”.The overall objective of the workshop was to discuss issues on trade, climate change and food security relevant to South Asia based on the experience and outcomes of studies conducted by SAWTEE. The workshop focused on building a common understanding and strategy for mutual cooperation in South Asia on trade, climate change and food security.

Stakeholders from five different South Asian countries underlined the need for regional cooperation to expedite trade, address climate change concerns and overcome food insecurity during the consultation.

A total of 54 participants representing governments, civil society, private sector, academia, development partners and the media participated in the consultation.

Starting the deliberations of the workshop, Dr. Hiramani Ghimire, Executive Director, SAWTEE provided a brief overview of the workshop. He stated that the workshop will touch upon, among others, developments in the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) and the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Chairing the opening session, Dr. Pushpa Raj Rajkarnikar, Chairman, Institute for Policy Research and Development (IPRAD) stressed the need to explore ways to ensure that South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), as a regional bloc, can serve the common goal of deepening regional cooperation in South Asia. He called for a common South Asian agenda in multilateral forums like the WTO. Speaking in the session, Ms. L. Savithri, Director, SAARC Secretariat urged South Asian countries to come together for greater regional integration in South Asia and stressed the need for putting aside political issues.

Presenting the outcome of the 10th WTO Ministerial in Nairobi, Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Chairman, SAWTEE highlighted some of the major expectations of South Asian countries for the Nairobi Ministerial, particularly in agriculture, services, rules of origin (RoO), and other implementation related issues and concerns. Subsequently, he presented some of the major achievements made in the 10th WTO Ministerial, which included the commitment to abolish subsidies for farm exports, preferential RoO for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and implementation of preferential treatment in favour of services and service suppliers of LDCs, among others. But despite such achievements, Dr. Pandey argued that the Ministerial, which was largely characterized by the dearth of Doha Development Agenda, and proliferation of mega regional groups and plurilateral agreements, failed to meet the expectation of South Asian countries. Thus, he suggested that South Asian countries should further deepen South Asian cooperation and work together with other developing countries to revive the Doha Development Agenda.

In the next session “Overcoming hunger in South Asia: Case of South Asian Food Supply Chain,” Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel, Former Vice-chairman, National Planning Commission (NPC), Government of Nepal (GoN)  highlighted the need for increasing agricultural productivity with the use of appropriate technologies for overcoming huger in South Asia. Similarly, in the session “Agriculture investment in South Asia: Trends, opportunities and challenges,” Dr. Hari Krishna Upadhyaya, Former Member, NPC stressed the need for increased investments in agriculture sector in South Asian countries.

The next day, consultation started with the session on “Reducing Non-Tariff Barriers in Trade: Case of South Asian Agriculture”. During his presentation, Mr. Purushottam Ojha, Former Secretary of Commerce and Supplies, GoN made a presentation where he highlighted the growing proliferation of various non-tariff barriers in South Asian countries which are coming up as threat to their development. Mr. Toya Narayan Gyawali, Joint Secretary, GoN said that there should be a meaningful initiation at SAARC level to minimize non-tariff barriers. He also highlighted the need for harmonization of standards among the SAARC countries to facilitate free flow of goods, including in agriculture sector.

In the next session, “Sustainable Development Goals: Need for mutual cooperation in South Asia”, Dr. Swarnim Wagle, Former Member, NPC said that South Asia still faces challenges in meeting the goals set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He also highlighted that there is a need to achieve MDG targets in several fronts, and concurrently there is a need to incorporate newly adopted SDGs into the national development plans in South Asian countries. In the last technical session “Climate governance in South Asia: COP 21 and beyond”, Dr. Hiramani Ghimire, Executive Director, SAWTEE highlighted the need for a proper international and national climate governance for mitigation and adaption of climate change, including in South Asia.

During the closing session, participants discussed the potential areas of cooperation in South Asia. They highlighted the need to strengthen networking and partnership with South Asian governments for wider collaboration towards the creation of coherence among trade, climate and food security policies. They also identified common areas in trade, climate change and food security for future collaboration, including to assist the implementation of the SDGs.


Session

The outcome of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference:  Need for more regional cooperation in South Asia?

Presentation:

Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Chairman, SAWTEE



Overcoming hunger in South Asia: Case of South Asian Food Supply Chain

Presentation:

Dr. Amita Batra, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi



Agriculture investment in South Asia: Trends, opportunities and challenges

Presentation:

Dr. Krishna P. Pant, Fellow, South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics (SANDEE), Lalitpur



Reducing Non-Tariff Barriers in Trade: Case of South Asian Agriculture Trade 

Presentation:

Mr. Purushottam Ojha, Former Secretary of Commerce and Supplies, GoN



Sustainable Development Goals: Need for mutual cooperation in South Asia

Presentation:

Dr. Swarnim Wagle, Former Member, NPC


Climate governance in South Asia: COP 21 and beyond

Presentation:

Dr. Hiramani Ghimire, Executive Director, SAWTEE 





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