Research Handbook on the WTO Agriculture Agreement

Research Handbook on the WTO Agriculture Agreement

New and Emerging Issues in International Agricultural Trade Law

Research Handbooks on the WTO series

Edited by Joseph A. McMahon and Melaku Geboye Desta

Agriculture has been the unruly horse of the GATT/WTO system for a long time and efforts to halter it are still ongoing. This Research Handbook focuses on aspects of agricultural production and trade policy that are recognized for their importance but are often kept out of the limelight, such as the implication of national and international agricultural production and trade policies on national food security, global climate change, and biotechnology. It provides a summary of the state of the WTO agriculture negotiations as well as the relevant jurisprudence, but also, and uniquely, it focuses on the new and emerging issues of agricultural trade law and policy that are rarely addressed in the existing literature.

Chapter 2: Food Security and International Agricultural Trade Regulation: Old Problems, New Perspectives

Fiona Smith

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, international economics, environment, environmental economics


Fiona Smith I. INTRODUCTION How can the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) rules on international agricultural trade address food security more effectively? This is a question taxing trade negotiators, policy officials outside the WTO and many eminent academic commentators. There is such a wealth of institutional literature and academic commentary advocating changes to the WTO’s international agricultural trade rules beyond those in the Doha Draft Modalities for Agriculture that it is easy to get swept along with the strong impetus for fundamental change (WTO, 2008b). Recent events have ensured that food security is high on the political agenda too. The 2010 Russian wheat export ban is putting pressure on international wheat supplies. Russia is the world’s fourth largest wheat exporter and its export ban means supply problems for many WTO Members. Argentina also retains long-term restrictions on the export of agricultural products. In 2008 the Argentinean government introduced further higher variable export taxes on beef, soybeans and oilseeds, together with slightly lower rates for maize and wheat, on ´ domestic food security grounds (Nogues, 2008). The effectiveness of this policy is questionable. Argentina suffered a severe social and economic crisis in 2002. Export taxes were introduced as a very quick way to generate crucial income to alleviate the severe poverty rates. Whilst this policy alleviated the worst problems in the short term, the ´ long-term effects were surprising. The Nogues study shows these taxes actually led to a reduction in agricultural production and an increase in rural unemployment...

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