By Dr. Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat

While attending the 5th APEC Food Security Ministerial Meeting last week in Puerto Varas, Chile, I was reminded of what APEC can achieve. Let’s call it APEC’s Three Cs for Success.

The first ‘C’ is collaboration. Conflict-wrought news headlines would be out of place in this forum anchored by the APEC Policy Partnership on Food Security, or PPFS. Instead, economies here come together to effectively address issues that affect us all. The collaborative spirit displayed during PPFS policy dialogues is a positive harbinger for the future of APEC, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Food Security Week exemplifies the best of APEC. Not only does the forum reflect the concerns of its myriad stakeholders, but it also responds with the second ‘C’ for success: creativity.

Look at its approach to agriculture and rural development. We thrive when farmers and fishers thrive. When, besieged by vulnerability to climate change and falling yields and incomes, they suffer - a domino effect that impacts the economy at large.

That’s why this forum works across sectors to identify policy solutions. Be it advancing the digital economy or women-led small businesses, this forum addresses all the priorities set by this year’s host economy Chile. The PPFS knows that breakthroughs are met only when we reach out across our silos.

Solutions also often require private sector buy-in. Chile offers great examples of such public-private collaboration. An alliance between industry players and the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation is improving the production and marketing of pisco, a popular spirit. The cooperative dairy company Colun is working with the Corporation for the Promotion of Production, known as CORFO, to boost the output of dairy suppliers. CORFO is also working with potato producers Cinco Valles and the Institute for Agricultural Development to bolster crop safety.

The common thread is working with small businesses, which are crucial to food security.  More than 70 percent of global food needs come from small-scale producers. Yet linking to global value chains can be enormously difficult for them.

Digital skills and capacity can help small businesses to compete better. Digital transformation means more than just new technologies such as robot tractors. The deployment and use of data are vital too. When managed and analyzed well, data can help farmers to anticipate critical developments in crop diseases or prices, and formulate the right strategies for success.

Yet farmers and fishers with the most sophisticated technology won’t achieve much if they are mired in logistical or regulatory paralysis. Cumbersome certification requirements can be as debilitating as poor transport infrastructure. So are non-tariff measures that limit market entry.

That’s when governments must step in and take decisions that foster greater trade. 

Here’s the last C for APEC success: capacity-building. Since 2010, more than 100 projects have built capacity and shared knowledge of food security and agriculture.

American statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin once said that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. As we close the third of APEC Senior Officials’ Meetings this year, I look forward to supporting the PPFS or other APEC fora for policy dialog in continuing to invest in our three Cs for success – collaboration, creativity, and capacity-building – for the well-being of our people.