In recognition of the importance of ensuring affordable food and making the F&A sector more efficient in the region, the F&A Committee's mission statement aims to enhance the flow of information regarding agricultural issues along the entire range of the food value chain. In particular, these areas include R&D, farming, developing seeds, processing, international trade, distribution and retailing.
The F&A Committee is one of the Council's most active committees. The Committee meets quarterly to discuss and consolidate "new" issues and address follow-up on any outstanding issues. Work plans are developed in the preceding year and encompass key policy issues and program activities planned for the following year. The Committee has also successfully worked together as a team in monitoring and responding to crisis issues that negatively affect food security and trade in the region.
In support of free and open trade in the Asia Pacific region, especially in the food and agriculture sector, the F&A Committee has added Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the Work Plan as of 2011. The Committee recognizes the importance of liberalizing further the economies of the region. Specifically, article 1.1.3 notes: The Parties seek to support the wider liberalization in APEC consistent with its goals of free and open trade and investment." In further support of the TPP process, the 16th Round of the TPP negotiations took place in Singapore on March 2013 where committee representative, Bruce Blakeman, gave a presentation on TPP Stakeholders’ Day (March 6, 2013) regarding the “Impact of Trade Restrictions on Consumers.”
The Committee has also been involved in important events that catalyze efforts on other critical regional and bilateral issues. Working in cooperation with organizations and institutions such as Nathan Associates (contractor of USAID), FAS office, and other associations, the committee participated in several annual regional meetings. To highlight a few, the Committee was active in the ASEAN Food Security conferences; ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry private sector dialogues; and the World Bank's Forum for Agricultural Risk Management in Development in 2012. Other significant past events include the APEC Food Safety Cooperation Forum meeting in 2009 and the World Bank's Conference on the "First East Asia Pacific Regional Agribusiness Trade and Investment in 2009. There are several possible collaborations in the pipeline in partnership with other food and agriculture organizations that include domestic food and beverage associations.
The F&A Committee has also established close working relations with the ASEAN Secretariat F&A sector. The committee has had the opportunity to address their areas of interests at several ASEAN technical committee meetings over the past few years including the ASEAN Working Group on Livestock meeting, the ASEAN Genetically Modified Food Testing Network Meeting and the ASEAN Task Force on Codex meeting. As part of the work plan, the committee will continue to seek out opportunities to participate in relevant ASEAN technical working group meetings in 2014.
Focusing on Food Security in the Region
The F&A Committee has decided to focus the group's collective issues on food security - a priority issue and area of on-going concern for ASEAN countries. In tandem with this focus, ASEAN has developed the region's ASEAN Integrated Framework on Food Security (AIFS Framework) covering the period from 2009 to 2013. The AIFS Framework, and food security in general, provides the opportunity for the F&A Committee to not only assist ASEAN in formulating successful food security strategies but also provide opportunities for the committee to address several concurrent areas of interest - including trade development, strengthening information systems, promoting sustainable food production and agri-innovation.
The focus of the F&A Committee has been in establishing a formal mechanism for regular public-private sector engagement on food security issues in recognition that only a coordinated strategy by both the public and private sectors can provide the best opportunity to address food security challenges.
Several major projects in the pipeline for the F&A committee include developing a group position paper and stakeholder mapping. New projects allow for new opportunities for stakeholder engagement including potential collaboration with multilateral banks / organizations and continued cooperation with government agencies.
Building off existing momentum, it is anticipated that the F&A Committee will keep growing from strength to strength as it continues to consolidate expertise and knowledge and open channels of opportunities. It is the committee’s aim to continue to play an important role in the successful outcome of the region's food security initiatives.