The Indo-Pacific region’s agricultural needs cannot be met by individual countries and will need international co-operation to find shared solutions for the zone’s shared problems, according to speakers at the In the Zone 2016: Feeding the Zone conference in Jakarta today.
Professor Stephen Smith, Former Minister for Defence and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia, moderated a panel of regional thinkers in international co-operation, saying that Asia and Australia had many opportunities to transfer and share knowledge and heighten collaborations across research, inter-agency support and global trading systems.
“Whatever challenges our region faces in sustainable food production, whether climate change, food security, population growth or changing consumption patterns, these challenges can not be met by any one single country acting alone,” Professor Smith said.
“They can only be met and turned into opportunities for prosperity by countries acting together, bilaterally, regionally and through the relevant regional and international agricultural institutions."
Professor Bark Taeho, Former Trade Minister, Republic of Korea and Professor, Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University, provided a “gloomy” outlook on regional trade co-operation and the inability to revive negotiations following the stalling of discussions on the Doha Development Round. Begun in 2001, the Doha Development Round aimed at lowering trade barriers and facilitating increased global trade.
He called on Australia, as a middle power, to work in collaboration with countries like Korea and Canada to revise the Doha Development Round agenda, which he saw as an integral agreement to stimulate world and regional trade.
Professor Taeho also urged ASEAN to move more aggressively to form a single market, which would then increase connectivity in the region
Professor Dr Ir Hermanto Siregar, Deputy Rector of Resources and Strategic Studies at Bogor Agricultural University said he looked forward to seeing the impacts of the newly established ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which aimed to create a single market and production base within the region. At present, it was too early to see any change.
He said regional cooperation in the areas of education and research were successful collaborative models and there was great expertise that Australia could offer within the zone.
Professor John Edwards, Emeritus Professor, Murdoch University shared his experiences working for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and other international health agencies, citing a China-Mongolia-Russia collaboration addressing emerging infectious diseases as a good example of regional cooperation.
All countries in the region needed to work together to resolve issues of food security and emerging health threats he said.
“The challenges are the limited capacity of less developed countries to contribute fully, and hence a need for regional cooperation.
“Foot and mouth disease is the number one trade limiting disease,” he said. “Bird flu, and new emerging issues like anti-microbial resistance don’t respect international boundaries. We need to work together.”
Professor Edwards led the 2014/2015 Second Murdoch Commission on food security, trade and partnerships in the Asia region which recommended greater regional cooperation based on shared responsibility, partnership and trust, to transform the learnings from each nation into a cohesive regional strategy for food security and greater efficiencies.
“Individual country attempts to provide food security have failed and exacerbated the problem. We need to look at systems, markets and trade based on comparative advantage which would allow the systems to be more easily controlled,” Professor Edwards said.
He said structural and intellectual changes in the way we viewed agriculture were needed and he hoped to see investment, including international investment all along the supply chain.
The complex and challenging issue of ‘Feeding the Zone’ is the subject of a one-day discussion in Jakarta, Indonesia today as part of the Perth USAsia Centre’s In the Zone 2016 event, in partnership with the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia. More than 1000 delegates from government, business and academia have convened to discuss strategic solutions to food and water security in the Indo-Pacific zone.
Sonia Nolan, Media Manager, In the Zone 2016