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Conflict, Chaos and Confusion

Conflict, Chaos and Confusion

The Crisis in the International Trading System

William A. Kerr

After 15 years the WTO is not functioning as envisioned and is faced with many new trade challenges − climate change, terrorism, pandemics, genetically modified organisms, food safety − which it is ill-equipped to handle. Conflict, Chaos and Confusion sheds light on this deep and acute crisis, focusing on contentious and complex new trade issues and how they will affect international trade in the future.

Chapter 8: Science-based Rules of Trade – A Mantra for Some, Anathema for Others

William A. Kerr

Subjects: economics and finance, international economics


Given an unknown but non-zero probability of God’s existence and the infinity of the reward of an eternal life, the rational option would be to conduct one’s earthly life as if God indeed exists. Consider the possible existence of another deity than God, say Odin. If Odin is jealous, he will resent our worship of God, and we will have to pay an infinite price for our mistake. Henk van den Belt, 20031 The United States, Canada and a number of agricultural exporting countries continually reiterate their firm commitment to science-based rules for the imposition of barriers to the international movement of goods when health, sanitary and phytosanitary issues are invoked.2 Anti-globalisation activists, a number of environmental non-government organisations (NGOs) and other civil society groups have condemned science-based rules as a sham and conjure up visions of undemocratic, paternalistic cliques of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ in the pay of large multinationals. The European Union accepts a role for science-based rules, up to a point, but suggests the ultimate authority should be a political one that may wish to consider other factors, including socio-economic ramifications, in their decision making. The reason positions regarding science-based rules of trade have become so polarised is the ongoing confrontation over the commercialisation of genetically modified agricultural products and the regulatory regime under which they will be allowed to trade. This confrontation is at the heart of the recent case against the EU’s moratorium on the import of genetically modified crops brought by the United States, Canada, Australia...

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