WTO appoints new chair of ag talks

by Holly Demaree
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Ndung'u Karau_chair of ag committee
Karau is the tenth chairperson of the agriculture negotiations since talks began in March 2000.
Photo courtesy of WTO.
 
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — World Trade Organization (WTO) agriculture negotiators appointed Ambassador Stephen Ndung’u Karau of Kenya as the new chair of the agriculture committee in Special Session at a meeting on April 26. Karau will facilitate ongoing negotiations in agricultural trade and reform.

Karau replaces New Zealand Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis who returned to New Zealand in early 2017.

“I am humbled by the confidence shown in me by the members and would like to assure you that I will carry out my tasks with determination and dedication,” Karau said in his address to WTO members.

He stressed that the work ahead in agriculture negotiations remained challenging.

“The technical and policy issues involved in the negotiations are complex,” he said, “but that is not the end of it. Agriculture fills a central place in our discussions at the WTO. And food is an essential part of our lives. Therefore everyone has a stake in these negotiations.”

Outlining his plan for the way forward, Karau said that he is firmly committed to the consensus and transparency principles in agriculture talks.

“I know that trust is absolutely essential in my new role as chair and I commit to working fairly, objectively and transparently with all delegations. I will always listen to you and respect all points of view,” he said.

He informed members of his intention to convene an informal open-ended meeting of the Special Session as well as dedicated sessions on public stockholding for food security purposes and on the special safeguard mechanism for developing countries in the second half of May.

“I know that there is no time to waste with the Buenos Aires Ministerial meeting just around the corner,” he told members.

Karau is the 10th chairperson of the agriculture negotiations since talks began in March 2000.

WTO agriculture negotiations chairs have included: 
  • March 2000: Roger Farrell (New Zealand, ex officio as Goods Council chairperson)
  • June 2000 to March 2001: Jorge Voto-Bernales (Peru)
  • March 2001 to Doha Ministerial Conference: Apiradi Tantraporn (Thailand)
  • From Doha (Nov 2001, chairing first meeting in March 2002) to Cancún (September 2003): Stuart Harbinson (Hong Kong, China)
  • From Cancún (September 2003, chairing first meeting in March 2004) to summer (July) 2005: Tim Groser (New Zealand)
  • From summer (Sept) 2005 to April 2009: Crawford Falconer (New Zealand)
  • From April 2009 to June 2011: David Walker (New Zealand)
  • From November 2011 to July 2015: John Adank (New Zealand)
  • From September 2015 to November 2016: Vangelis Vitalis (New Zealand)
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