Just about everyone involved in agriculture knows that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting world trade and food markets. What no one involved in ag — including four experts on a recent panel — knows yet is what the future of world ag trade will look like.

But this much is certain: "This a critical time for trade," said Peter Clark, president of Grey, Clark, Shih and Associates, an Ottowa, Ontario-based company that deals with trade issues.

Clark was among the panelists in "Managing Agricultural Trade is an Increasingly Chaotic World" held July 8. The webinar, available to the news media, was sponsored by the Farm Foundation, based in Oak Brook, Ill., and the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute.

Also on the panel were John Clarke with EU European Commission; Alan Oxley,with the European Centre for International Political Economy in Melbourne, Australia, and Joe Glauber with the International Food Policy Research Institute. in Washington, D.C.

Organizers said the event sought, in part, to identify the 'next normal" in world ag trade — a task made more difficult by the pandemic.

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Clarke said it's too early to accurately predict how the pandemic will affect world ag trade. But there's a strong possibility that it will lead to an economic recession., which obviously would hurt ag trade.

He also expressed concern about growing worldwide "nativist" sentiment, or the desire to protect domestic markets at the expense of world trade

But despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the global food system continues to work. "The system isn't broken. It's resilient." Clarke said.

Panelists said the World Trade Organization, or WTO, the global international organization that deals with the rules of trade between nations. continues to have a vital role in world ag trade

But the WTO has made relatively little progress since 2008, and Trump administration trade policies since 2016 have hampered international trade issues, Glauber said.

Oxley noted that China and the United States have made some progress recently on ag trade.

The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute says it "leads, catalyzes and coordinates independent strategic and policy analysis on emerging agri-food issues, engages stakeholders in dialogue, and advances public policy."

The Farm Foundation describes itself as "an accelerator of practical solutions for agriculture."