Dodwell's blog on the Second Senior Officials' Meetings in Peru

May 16, 2016

I am just back to Hong Kong from a week of APEC meetings in Arequipa in the far south of Peru, high on the edge of the Atacama desert. The first instinct is to feel sorry for yourself: 30 hours or more getting to meetings in Peru, and then 30 hours back, is expensive and punishing. But then pinch yourself: our APEC colleagues in Peru and Chile have to make these journeys all the time, year after year. We need to be reminded of the huge efforts they make to ensure their effective engagement in the APEC process. We also need to be reminded of the huge physical and cultural distances that exist across the APEC region.
After a faltering start, Peru’s year of APEC chairmanship is at last getting into full swing. We always expected that it would be challenging for the Peruvian government to kick start the year, given Presidential elections that will not be settled until June, but the atmosphere in Arequipa provided a sense that they are at last in their stride.
The senior official cluster of meetings has been more modest than some in the past – I remember SOM2 in Washington in the 2011 year of US chairmanship of APEC, which bundled 84 meetings together – but this as by design, and a good thing. It allowed for a keener focus – on food security, human resources development, science and technology development, and on the usual cluster of trade and investment meetings under the Committee on Trade and Investment. Of special interest to Peru, there were also meetings on mining. Needless to say, Hong Kong had little to do with that, having little in the way of extractive industries.
The setting was also conducive to genial discussion. Arequipa glowed under cloudless azure skies from the moment we arrived. The high altitude, at 2,300 metres, also induced everyone to move at a more sedate pace than usual. The remarkable Peruvian cuisine pacified even the most aggressive trade negotiators. Arequipa was remote enough to be exotic, but not so remote that anyone felt vulnerable. Local people were so sweet and enthusiastic that it was easy to forgive the hopeless internet, and the ramshackle infrastructure, and the very flimsy grasp of English. Every APEC year needs at least one exotic destination to provide some charismatic memories to the year, and Arequipa provided charisma on steroids.
The climax of this second Senior Official cluster of Meetings (SOM2) is the year’s first ministerial – for Ministers Responsible for Trade. That ministerial will take place this week, and all of the meetings I attended last week were intended to lay the ground. So let’s quickly go over the ground-laying over the next day or so by providing some edits of the APEC press releases for the week.


Peru, as a major food producer, has put food trade at the top of its agenda for 2016. So the meetings last week of the Policy Partnership on Food security (PPFS) was particularly important. Work is leading up to a big “Food Security Week” in Lima in September.
Discussions focused on industry resilience against the effects of climate change, and collaboration between governments and food producers in the private sector. 
“Peru has been a leader of agricultural innovation and adaptation dating back to the Inca civilization 700 years ago and is now on the cusp of a renaissance that could bolster food security across the Pacific in this period of climate change,” said Cesar Sotomayor, Peru’s Vice Minister of Agricultural Policies and Chair of the APEC Policy Partnership on Food Security.
“APEC is breaking new ground in efforts to mitigate the risks that climate change poses to agriculture and food industry capacity to meet rising food demand,” Sotomayor explained.“ The meetings that spread over three days focused on cutting-edge technologies and approaches could improve food access despite swings in global temperatures. Challenges included increases in yield variation, weather disasters including droughts and flooding, agricultural diseases, and shifts in the abundance and distribution of fish in oceans and waterways—all possible drivers of price hikes for consumers.
Ways to drive advancements in land, water and crop use, cultivation and harvesting techniques, and supply chain performance were a point of emphasis. 
“There must be a strong economic case for early adoption of climate smart agriculture across production and supply chains to achieve its intended goals,” noted Tony Nowell, Vice Chair of the APEC Policy Partnership on Food Security and APEC Business Advisory Council representative from New Zealand. “This is a sizeable task that the public and private sectors in the region are now endeavoring to address in coordination with one another.” 
Discussion also focused on the potential to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint which accounts for about a quarter of carbon emissions generated by humans worldwide: “The continuation of business as usual in agriculture and fisheries is no longer an option if food security is to be maintained over the coming decades” said Dr Andy Jarvis of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. 
“Changes that encompass farms, landscapes, marine resources, foods systems and services like insurance and climate information are essential,” he concluded. “Greater policy support for industry innovation in a region as large and with as many people as APEC is an important step in the right direction but it must be targeted and sustained for the long haul.” [ Back ]