Agriculture and the WTO

Agriculture and the WTO

Towards a New Theory of International Agricultural Trade Regulation

Elgar International Economic Law series

Fiona Smith

International agricultural trade regulation remains problematic despite the creation of the WTO and a specific Agreement on Agriculture in 1995. Fiona Smith challenges this orthodoxy and presents a new conceptual method by which the problem of international agricultural trade in the WTO can be understood.

Chapter 2: Current perceptions of the problem

Fiona Smith

Subjects: development studies, agricultural economics, economics and finance, agricultural economics, international economics, environment, agricultural economics, law - academic, international economic law, trade law


INTRODUCTION This chapter explores how commentators perceive the problem of international agricultural trade regulation. It will emerge from the discussion that the problem as represented in the existing literature is presented in a linear way which causes each person to see the problem in essentially the same way. This linearity consists in the assumption that one must begin with an interpretation of the rules, and then proceeds to criticize the rules as good or bad depending on their distinctive agenda. It will be argued that this model of understanding fails to comprehend the problem as dynamic and shifting, rather than as homogeneous and static. The difference might be explained as one between a problem where the disagreement concerns the correct solution of a problem whose structure and substance is universally agreed, and one where not only the solutions but also the nature of the problem itself are capable of generating endless variant interpretations. Moreover, just as the problem is constantly in motion, also the starting point from which each person addresses the problem is also in a perpetual state of flux. This is because any discussion of a problem vis-à-vis other disputants depends upon the identification of common ground, as a beginning place from which to argue. But where a problem is characterized by the presence of multiple disputants this common ground is not static across the numerous instances of argument that must take place. Rather, each instance of argument will have an influence over the conceptual starting point...

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