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G7 Agriculture Ministers' Advances at Niigata

John Kirton, Director, G7 Research Group
April 25, 2016

G7 ministers of agriculture met in Niigata, Japan, on April 23–24, 2016, for only the second time in history, following their first meeting as the G8 under the Italian chair in 2009. At Niigata they produced a strong success. Their lengthy communiqué dealt in depth with many agriculture and food issues (including food waste, forestry and fisheries), linked them convincingly to a wide range of other subjects on their leaders' agenda, and endorsed initiatives with other G7 and global institutions, in ways likely to improve implementation of the many commitments the Niigata ministers made.

At the conclusion of the Niigata meeting, the agriculture ministers issued an 11-page communiqué, more than twice as long as the five-page communiqué issued by their predecessors at Cison di Valmarino, Italy, on April 20, 2009.

The Niigata communiqué contained 40 specific, future-oriented, politically obligatory commitments, more than double the number issued in 2009. The Niigata commitments forged far more direct, frequent and broader links with the other key subjects on the G7 and global agenda. Among the 20 commitments, climate change components or considerations arose in seven, human and animal health issues arose in seven and gender issues arose in two. The commitments also made explicit links to the environment, the economy, demography and aging, biodiversity, trade, education (in the form of vocational training), information and communications technology, labour, social protection, and crime (in the form of illegal logging). The communiqué also referred to maritime security, although not in a decisional context. 

Niigata's ministers also did far more than before to institutionally develop global agricultural governance. Inside the G7 they approved and guided the work of several ongoing bodies and launched three important new initiatives: the G7 Forum on Investment in the Agri-Food Sector; cooperation framework for technical information sharing among veterinary authorities of G7 to accelerate the One Health approach"; a G7 follow-up side event during 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Morocco in November 2016. In keeping with the distinctive synergistic strength of the G7 and the spirit of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, two of the three of the G7's institutional initiatives were directed at health or climate change.

The ministers in their commitments gave support and direction to several global institutions outside the G7: the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Wheat Initiative, the Organisation for Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organization, the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Trade Organization and the UN. Surprisingly left out from the commitments were the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the regional development banks.

But the G20 was not omitted, as it received three references in the G7 agriculture ministers' communiqué. The ministers approvingly noted that "G20 Agricultural Ministers have highlighted the extent of food loss and waste as a global problem of enormous economic, environmental, and societal significance." They thus welcomed "the launch of the Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Losses and Waste which G20 invited FAO and The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to develop." By way of guidance, the G7 ministers called on "international organizations, including FAO and OECD, as well as G20 members to advance these efforts" at implementing the promises made at Niigata. They thus provided further evidence that the G7-G20 relationship is developing in a cooperative way.


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John KirtonJohn J. Kirton, is director of the G7 and G8 Research Group, and co-director of the G20 Research Group, the Global Health Diplomacy Program and the BRICS Research Group. He is also a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at China's Renmin University. A professor of political science, he teaches global governance and international relations and Canadian foreign policy. He has advised the Canadian and Russian governments, the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization on G7/8 and G20 participation and summitry, international trade and sustainable development, and has written widely on G7/8 and G20 summitry. Kirton is the author of many chapters and articles on the G7, G8 and G20. His most recent books include G20 Governance for a Globalized World (Ashgate, 2012) and (with Ella Kokotsis), The Global Governance of Climate Change: G7, G20 and UN Leadership (Ashgate, 2015), as well as The G8-G20 Relationship in Global Governance, co-edited with Marina Larionova (Ashgate, 2015). Kirton is also co-editor of several publications on the G8, the G20 and the BRICS published by Newsdesk Media, including G20 Turkey: The Antalya Summit 2015 and G7 Germany: The Schloss Elmau Summit 2015.

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