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WTO Members appoint Guyanese as new chair of Agriculture Talks

Ambassador John Deep Ford of Guyana has taken over as chair of the WTO farm trade talks. WTO members confirmed his appointment at a meeting of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session on 9 April. In addition to the ongoing negotiations on agricultural reform, Ambassador Ford will also facilitate the negotiations on cotton.

Ambassador Ford replaces Kenya’s Ambassador Stephen Ndung’u Karau. He thanked his predecessor for investing enormous energy and wisdom in guiding members in the agriculture negotiations in the run up to last year's  Buenos Aires Ministerial Conference. 

In his remarks to members, Ambassador Ford said the main goal is to put the negotiations on a firmer footing and ensure that substantive progress is made towards reaching results that accommodate the interests of all members. He noted that despite the lack of an agreement on a future work program for the farm trade talks at last December’s Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, there was clear convergence of views on the need to advance negotiations on all three pillars of agriculture, namely domestic support, market access and export competition.

 “I’m confident we’ve all agreed that it cannot be business as usual,” the new chair said. 

“We need to be creative and innovative and not repeat past mistakes,” he continued.  “We need to have frank and constructive discussions going forward bearing in mind the interests of all members. It is clear that compromises have to be made if we are to make progress in these negotiations.”

“It is my sincere hope that by working collectively and intensively together in the period ahead, we will be able to address each other's concerns and eventually reach an agreement that would contribute to the establishment of a fairer and more market-oriented agriculture trading system and enhance the food security of all countries.”

Ambassador Ford said the results of his initial consultations with delegations over the coming weeks will determine when meetings of the negotiating group would be scheduled, although he said he would convene at least one informal meeting before the summer break to report on his consultations and give members the opportunity to also report on their activities aimed at facilitating progress in the negotiations.

Ambassador Ford stressed that he was firmly committed to the principles of inclusiveness and transparency and will always listen and respect the views of all delegations – big and small. 

“It is a new beginning,” he declared. “My challenge to you is to let us again demonstrate that we can agree in Geneva on rules that contribute to increasing trade and enhancing the welfare of our countries.”

Ambassador John Deep Ford has a Ph.D in Agricultural Economics (Purdue University) and more than 30 years of experience working nationally and globally as an economist in the areas of agricultural trade and food policy.  Between 2000 and 2016 he worked at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the last four years as FAO Regional Director for the Caribbean.  Since September 2016 he has been Guyana’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, the WTO, and the FAO. In 2017 Ambassador Ford served as chair of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group at the WTO.

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