Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 2

January 27, 2013

After all the stress and discord of PPFS on Friday, it was warming to see peace break out on Saturday, as members got down to agreeing Working Group agendas, and setting their timetables to deliver into PPFS2 planned for Medan in July. As if in empathy, the skies cleared, and we actually saw blue sky outside.

Despite the haggling over Food Security working groups on Friday, with pressure to reduce them to three, we find we still have four working groups – though their names and responsibilities have been altered as follows:

  • WG1: Stock take and Road Map towards 2020: note we must now talk about a “roadmap” not an action plan. How would negotiators manage without the arcane intricacies of the English language??! Chairmanship is shared between Japan, the US and Russia.

  • WG2: Enhancing Trade and Markets: this will be chaired by ABAC New Zealand’s Tony Nowell.

  • WG3: Facilitation on Investment and Infrastructure Development. To be chaired by Russia, this is so far the least clearly outlined working group.

  • WG4: Sustainable Development of Agriculture and Fisheries Sector, to be chaired by Indonesia. Note the addition of “Fisheries” – a sector suffering worrying neglect in past PPFS deliberation, in spite of accounting for almost 20% of the world’s protein.

After an initial plenary discussing the structure of the WGs, the meeting then agreed the role of the Management Council – essentially the conductor of the orchestra, rather than itself playing any instruments. Members then broke away into one of the four Working Groups, to meet for the first time, and to agree their work plans, both long term, and feeding into year’s second PPFS Plenary, planned for Medan on July 2 and 3.

Some brief notes on each Working Group:

  • WG1 Stock Taking and Road Map: there is still potential for substantial arguments here. At Japan’s insistence, the three co-chairs – all of them government officials – will provide the first draft of the Stock Take document. Business members, insistent that the document should look like a corporate business plan with targets, deliverables, timetables, milestones – and a “dashboard” that can track APEC economies’ progress towards Food Security in 2020 -  suggested this might be a dysfunctional way to start. In the end, all the business representatives were able to assert was that by the year’s next PPFS Plenary meeting in July, the Stock Taking and Road Mapping document would have to pass “the Business Plan test”. Only time will tell what kind of document we see in July.

  • WG2 Enhancing Trade and Markets: this will perhaps be where most of the substantive work will get done in the months ahead. This, for two reasons: because its large agenda is focused on familiar issues like trade liberalization, tariff and non-tariff barriers, supply chain connectivity, global data standards, traceability, price volatility, food loss and so on; and because it is to be chaired by ABAC New Zealand’s Tony Nowell, one of ABAC’s most experienced and respected members.

  •  WG3 Investment and Infrastructure: to  be chaired by Russia, this has an important but sketchily defined role that can range from technological development, to micro-finance for farmers, to foreign investment liberalization. The group will quite likely soon come knocking on ABAC’s door for discussions with the Asia Pacific Infrastructure Partnership Task Force on what needs to be done to draw private investment into the farm sector.

  • WG4 Sustainable Development: the key work here will clearly be ensuring sustainable management of natural resources – land, water, energy – including the marine resource. It will also overlap with the Trade working group on reining in food waste, and drawing small-holder farmers more effectively into the food supply chain. This will also focus on management of natural disasters.


Much time was spent talking about the “Farmers’ Day” that our Indonesian hosts are planning for the July PPFS2 in Medan. From business, we emphasized forcefully that it would be tough to attract business involvement unless the day was business-relevant. With this in mind, we recommended focus on four specific issues where we in ABAC have done much work of late in the SME Working Group – since after all, the challenges faced by farmers are not very different from the problems faced by SMEs: 1. Micro-finance. 2. Using IT to link farmers to business opportunities in their own markets and overseas; 3. Cooperative structures (like those developed in New Zealand) to give farmers more market influence and power; 4. Traceability and food product safety – all well embedded in our current work led by GS1 on the development of Global Data Standards.

Much time was also spent by our Taiwanese colleagues lobbying support for an ambitious five year project tackling food waste and food loss. This proposal now has 13 sponsors among APEC economies, so is quite likely to get APEC funding – music to ABAC’s ears, so long as it gets stuck into applying practical solutions rather than getting stuck in the ether of a think tank somewhere.

Finally, I can’t close without homing in on two persistent business messages into the PPFS:
  • “If we can in 2013 demonstrate that government and business can work together, there will be many in APEC wanting to emulate our success.”

  • “A message to our government officials: be patient with us from business. We will try to slow down and accept the need for due process – but at the same time remember that you have tasked us to bring our business culture into the APEC decision-making process. We would not be doing our job if we were not pressing you hard.”


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