Partnerships to Facilitate Trade: APEC Food Safety Dialogue  

The importance of cross-sector partnerships to effectively promote trade and address food safety issues was highlighted at the APEC High-Level Regulator Industry Dialogue on Food Safety held in Beijing. Hosted by the APEC Food Safety Cooperation Forum (FSCF) and co-chaired by China and Australia, the one day dialogue engaged over 150 high-level food safety regulators, senior food industry representatives and key stakeholders from the Asia-Pacific region in a series of interactive and elevated discussions. Food Industry Asia (FIA) was represented by Ms Xinsia Zhang in her capacity as Deputy Chair of the FIA Science & Technical Committee.

Titled ‘Shaping the Future through Asia-Pacific Partnership’, the event proved to be a valuable platform for sharing insights and exploring effective collaborative efforts to deal with the complex emerging challenges in food safety and trade. The discussions were complementary to the current agenda of the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP), which evolved from the APEC FSCF in 2012 as an MoU between the World Bank and APEC, with the goal to build food safety capacity globally.

Stronger partnerships key

A common message emphasised throughout the dialogue was the importance of increasing collaboration among global food safety leaders, in particular by encouraging partnerships between industry, government, and academia to provide capacity building. Participants shared their views on innovative measures to ensure the safety of food supply chains through collaboration, the trade benefits of enhanced food safety, and the accurate communication of safety information.

Governments and industries were portrayed by several speakers as key stakeholders in securing food safety in the APEC region. It was highlighted that effective partnerships would only be strengthened through reinforced communication and collaboration. A coordinated and cooperative approach would improve the safety of food supply chains and the further development of food trade in the APEC region. Given that governments and the food industry offer unique strengths, resources and expertise, there is ample room to recognise potential areas for cooperation to build safe, effective and sustainable food safety systems.

Food safety and case for trade harmonisation

At the Dialogue, Ms Zhang discussed the factors influencing government and industry collaboration on trade. Her presentation acknowledged the alignment of this event with the food industry’s objective to support capacity building in Asia and to accelerate the harmonisation of standards.

During this session, several actionable solutions were discussed with a keen focus on how government and industry can work together to facilitate trade to enhance food safety. The creation of an environment that protects consumers, supports businesses and builds trust and confidence was put forward as an ideal outcome.

Ms Zhang highlighted that the industry can play a positive role by sharing the industry’s collective expertise and knowledge, supporting food safety capacity building and supporting regulatory convergence of food standards. Furthermore, she believes that these accelerators will provide greater prosperity and opportunity to all APEC members through reduction of costs and hurdles to trade and business.

“FIA has been working with government and industry to understand the needs of businesses in food safety in supporting industry development and trade. The APEC FSCF is an excellent platform for discussion, debate and knowledge transfer on food safety. A high-level dialogue, such as this, plays an important role in establishing stronger multi-stakeholder partnerships and networks which ultimately strengthen the safety of food supply chains and promote trade through regulatory convergence of food standards in Asia.”

Ms Zhang conveyed that trade can be further facilitated through greater convergence of regional food standards to Codex.

There was interest shown by governments at the meeting to work at a regional level to achieve harmonisation and trade facilitation while anticipating global outcomes at the World Trade Organisation. APEC provides an opportunity that builds support for a trans-pacific approach to collaborate in harmonising standards, support training and reduce non-tariff barriers to trade.

The APEC Food Safety Dialogue is a promising indication of the direction APEC intends to take in enhancing safer food supply chains across the region. FIA is committed to support regional food safety initiatives that harness the strengths of the public, private and knowledge sectors to scale up capacity building in key markets. It is through platforms for discussions and collaborations such as the APEC Food Safety Dialogue that governments and industry can ensure strong capacity building efforts in food safety and achieve better trade through regulatory convergence of food standards.

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