World Trade Center Arkansas joins efforts addressing world hunger through agriculture

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 578 views 

Denise Thomas, third from the right, signs the memorandum of understanding for the World Trade Center Arkansas with other countries vowing to work together to focus on eliminating world hunger through increased trade opportunities. Thomas is the trade representative for Africa and the Middle East at the World Trade Center Arkansas in Rogers. She and trade representative Boon Tan are in the Netherlands for the signing of the agreement at the World Trade Centers Association General Assembly April 24-27. (Courtesy photo)

The world’s population of roughly 7.8 billion is growing by about 83 million people each year, according to the United Nations, which has officials concerned about hunger. By 2050, the global population is expected to top 9.8 billion and 11.2 billion by 2100.

Feeding the growing population is perceived as a challenge as farming acreage is dwindling in many countries. The World Trade Centers Association is holding its annual conference in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, this week to focus on agricultural trade that could be an answer to feeding the escalating population.

World Trade Center Arkansas (WTCA) representatives from Rogers, Denise Thomas and Boon Tan, are in the Netherlands for the general assembly. They joined three dozen other World Trade Centers in signing a memorandum of understanding focusing on agricultural trade. Dan Hendrix, CEO of the WTCA, told Talk Business & Politics this is the first time the general assembly has taken up an effort to collaborate on a deeper level.

Hendrix said there are 340 World Trade Centers around the globe working behind the scenes to facilitate trade between businesses domestically and abroad. He said the political landscape is cumbersome to navigate at times and the WTC has to work with various political parties while focused on matchmaking trade opportunities.

He said the signed agreement doesn’t change anything, except it does bring about a renewed focus among the various members regarding agriculture. He said the topic is relevant in the scope of feeding the world’s rapidly growing population in a safe and economical way.

“Agriculture is very near and dear to the Arkansas economy and overall trade supports some 400,000 jobs around the state, many of those are agri-related,” Hendrix said.

The World Trade Centers Association said the agreement will build a framework for collaboration around agricultural trade issues. Spearheaded by WTC Harbin (China), each participating member has ties to its local agriculture industries and the challenges they face. The Association said with more than a dozen countries participating in the agreement, there should be a stable platform to foster trade ties during a time of increasing uncertainty. Tariffs on steel, aluminum products from China and other proposed tariffs by President Donald Trump have raised fears of trade wars. China responded with proposed tariffs on agricultural products, with some of those produced in Arkansas.

Steven Lo, executive director of WTC Harbin, said signing members understand the potential in working together to find new opportunities for the respective home regions. He said the objective of the agreement is to provide members with a robust knowledge base, specialized services and a means of collaborating so each WTC can better enable their local business communities with tools to access and participate in global agribusiness.

“This is a prime example of a benefit that our global network can offer,” said Scott Ferguson, CEO of the World Trade Centers Association. “As an association whose members are intricately woven into the fabric of their local economies, we are incredibly well positioned to connect local communities to global opportunities, even in an environment that may not always seem conducive to this kind of collaboration.”

Other nations signing the agreement include Ghana, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, India, Belgium, Brazil, Ireland, Canada, Haiti, China, Mexico, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Italy and the Netherlands.

The following World Trade Centers inside the U.S. also took part in signing the agreement: Alaska, Delaware, Denver, Texas, Indiana, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.