Ambassador Islam A ‘Isi’ Siddiqui, who recently resigned from his position as chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the United States trade representative, has joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies as senior adviser on Global Food Security. Aziz Haniffa reports
Siddiqui and Rajiv Shah, administrator, US Agency for International Development, were the only two senior Indian Americans in the Obama administration, who stayed for the entire first term of the Obama administration.
Siddiqui, born in Haldwani, Uttarakhand had told India Abroad early last year that he had decided to stay on with the administration in its second term. According to informed sources at the time, he was said to be in line for an even senior position, possibly at the cabinet level.
But in January, Siddiqui decided to quit.
“My sole focus has been a successful completion of the World Trade Organisation Bali agricultural negotiations and achieving progress on priority bilateral agricultural trade issues as I end my tenure in government,” he had told India Abroad then. “In the weeks ahead, I am looking forward to contemplating new opportunities.”
Last week, the Washington, DC-based think tank CSIS announced that it had hired Siddiqui. “We are honoured that Ambassador Siddiqui has joined us at such an important time for US trade,” John Hamre, president, CSIS, said. “In addition to his wealth of experience and expertise in US agriculture, he will be a huge asset to CSIS by providing leadership in international trade and global food security issues.”
He noted, “As chief agricultural negotiator, Siddiqui was responsible for bilateral and multilateral negotiations and policy coordination on issues related to agricultural trade, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and WTO negotiations.
He added that Siddiqui played an active role in the successful 2013 WTO Ministerial meeting in Bali, Indonesia and served as the lead negotiator in the Brazil cotton case, which delayed the imposition of retaliation measures by Brazil in excess of $800 million annually.
“During this period, he also spearheaded a number of negotiations with trading partners in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Western hemisphere that contributed to record levels of exports by opening or expanding markets for US food and agricultural products,”Hamre said.
Siddiqui told India Abroad, “During the last 17 years, I have focused on issues related to agricultural trade and global food security and my association with a premier think tank in Washington DC would enable me to continue this vital work.”
“Global food policy has been a hot issue since the food riots in many countries in 2008-2009. Food price volatility and inflationary pressures have added to the need to address the issue globally,” he said.
Siddiqui predicted, “The impact of climate change on agricultural production is expected to further compound the problem of assuring food security to millions of people around the world.”
He pointed out, “Recent reports on climate change published by the Inter-government Panel on Climate Change and the Obama administration have concluded that food production patterns would be impacted unless coordinated and decisive actions are taken by governments around the world.”
“The Global Food Security Project at the CSIS provides research, analysis and policy recommendations to governments, decision makers, private sector, academia and NGOs that can enhance global dialogue. The project has been a leader in this area and I am looking forward to working this issue of vital interest to many around the world,” he said.
He explained that in addition to working on global food security issues he would continue to focus on the role of agricultural trade in addressing global food security needs in the context of the WTO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Food Programme and others.
“As you know, I have been invited to speak on the issue of global security in India in previous years, I will continue to focus on India and other countries in Asia and Africa in my new role,” Siddiqui said.
Before his stint with the Obama administration, he served as vice president for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, where he was responsible for regulatory and international trade issues related to crop protection chemicals. Previously, he has also served as vice president for Agricultural Biotechnology and Trade at CropLife America.
Image: Isi Siddiqui with President Barack Obama. Photograph courtesy: official White House Photo by Pete Souza