MGFAB student internship at WTO: Seeking for a just global food trade system

MGFAB student Marcel Moreira Pinto on his first day at the WTO, Geneva

Our Master of Global Food and Agricultural Business (MGFAB) student Marcel Moreira Pinto is doing an internship at the World Trade Organization (WTO). He kindly shares his view of challenges facing global trade talk and highlights some issues that we should all consider.


By: Marcel Moreira Pinto

These two years of the Master of Global Food and Agricultural Business has been an incredible learning experience. Now I’m finishing my journey with this amazing opportunity.

As part of my degree, I am doing an Internship at the World Trade Organization (WTO), in the Training Program of the Brazilian Delegation in Geneva. I have the daily opportunity to witness how countries interact in trade-related issues, mainly in the agricultural sector.  I am responsible for monitoring and preparing reports about meetings and for conducting studies that subsidize the Brazilian Officers decisions in trade negotiations.

Interestingly, I arrived in Geneva in a very important moment for the international trading system. The difficulties to reach consensus among 160 members of the WTO have been negatively affecting the progress of the Doha Developing Agenda. And the emergence of mega plurilateral agreements cast doubts on the relevance of the WTO as a forum for negotiations.

But I was present in the historical meeting where WTO members finally agreed to the first global trade deal in the Organization’s 20-year history.

The meeting that approved the Trade Facilitation Agreement (27/11/2014)

They ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement, aimed at streamlining global customs procedures, while also allowing developing countries to adopt policies for food security purposes. According to the WTO Director-General, Roberto Azevêdo, the organization is back on track, but:

Members need to find ways to make the decision process simpler in the future.

What impresses me most in the negotiations is how many issues – economic, commercial and political – are interrelated.

Discussions at WTO rooms, official’s speeches, documents circulated, all reflect this intricate web of trade policies and strategies adopted by Members. Luckily, the background provided by the Master of Global Food allows me to understand the reasons that lead countries to adopt certain positions and to evaluate the possible impacts of these strategies.

The Internship is giving me the opportunity to connect the dots and have a systemic view of the policy making process and the global food system. Here I learned that there is no right or wrong trade policy. There are circumstances that lead countries to adopt certain positions. The problem is that in a highly interconnected world, these measures affect everyone. The trading system is directly related to food production and consumption, and the result of this equation remains very unbalanced. The world produces a huge amount of food, but there are still millions of people facing hunger.

The way to find an equitable  system is long and extremely difficult, but possible.

The power to rethink the system and make it fairer belongs to qualified people, who are capable of identifying problems and seeking for effective solutions. With that in mind, I hope that me and each of my Global Food colleagues act as agents of change, applying all tools that we learned during the Master program, seeking for a just global food system.

Marcel with WTO Director General

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