Sustainable Development in International Law Making and Trade

Sustainable Development in International Law Making and Trade

International Food Governance and Trade in Agriculture

Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi

This timely book provides an accessible insight into how the concept of sustainable development can be made operational through its translation into legal terms. Understood as a multidimensional legal principle, sustainable development facilitates coherent international law making. Using this notion as an analytical lens on the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, the book considers the unresolved question of what a sustainable and coherent agricultural trade agreement could look like.

Chapter 7: Legal principle of sustainable development applied to the Agreement on Agriculture

Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi

Subjects: development studies, law and development, environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, international economic law, trade law, law and development


As discussed at the beginning of Chapter 6, evidence on the global food system and stalled negotiations suggest that the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) does not yet ideally balance divergent interests. In order to find out where the deficits are, the legal principle of sustainable development as presented in the first part of this volume – including the duty to include, the duty to structure and weigh, and the duty to balance and reconcile by developing optimal options (see section 3.4) – will be applied in the following. While the constitutional principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have already been looked at from a sustainable development perspective, this examination will focus on the three pillars of the AoA. As a first step, the duty to include requires that the ‘carpet of the relevant legal targets’ be delineated (see section 3.4.3). Here, the enumeration of targets will be confined to the legal standards which are most linked to trade in agriculture. For simplification, the discussion will be limited to binding international law of almost universal acceptance to which most members of the WTO adhere; although, in a comprehensive process, standards of different legal quality and of different layers of governance would actually need to be considered (see section 3.4.4). How the identified legal standards relate to the trade regime will also be assessed.

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