WASHINGTON, United States, Tuesday May 8, 2018 – Guyana’s Ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO) John Deep Ford has taken over as chair of that body’s farm trade talks, following his confirmation by members at a recent meeting of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session. He is the first chair of the agriculture negotiations from a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nation since talks began in March 2000.
In addition to the ongoing negotiations on agricultural reform, Ford will also facilitate negotiations on cotton.
He replaces Kenya’s Ambassador Stephen Ndung’u Karau, whom he thanked 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: domestic support, market access and export competition.
“I’m confident we’ve all agreed that it cannot be business as usual,” Ford said.
“We need to be creative and innovative and not repeat past mistakes. 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.”
He said it was his 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.”
The Ambassador 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.
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 Ford has 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 United Nations 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.