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 4: Polycentrism and the issue of market access

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 book’s previous chapters put forward the proposition that the problem of international agricultural trade regulation is complex.1 Rather than being confined to the idea that barriers to international agricultural trade are too high and must be reduced, this book instead shows that this is only one way in which the problem of international agricultural trade can be conceived. Chapter 3 explored another dimension to the problem in the context of market access, that of cultural divergence; this chapter explores a second, albeit linked, dimension. The purpose of this chapter is to explore how access to domestic markets for agricultural products can be understood as a polycentric problem.2 In other words, it will consider what market access is and how different understandings of the idea lead to different interpretations. On one level, market access can mean many different things, but on another level, people appear to agree on a single meaning, but this may hide the fact that beneath this superficial level, their views may be diametrically opposed. When different people operate from different starting points, they can collide in their judgements, or converge in judgement for very different reasons. Where there is collision, typically, the result is a third outcome; but where there is convergence without genuine agreement on the meaning, the effect is that the parties are talking past each other, so no specific resolution is achieved.3 Consequently, the problem remains unresolved and therefore may suddenly re-emerge in any context to frustrate the parties’ aims. Much of...

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