Research Handbook on the WTO Agriculture Agreement
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Research Handbook on the WTO Agriculture Agreement

New and Emerging Issues in International Agricultural Trade Law

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.
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Chapter 8: Private Standards and Trade

Tim Josling


Tim Josling I. INTRODUCTION Among the more intriguing developments in international agricultural and food trade over the past decade has been the rapid growth in the number and scope of private standards. These standards have arisen as a result of developments in the markets for and the marketing of foods, as described below. But they have also been a response to the evolution of public standards, notably those regulating health and safety. This apparent overlap between the public and the private sector standards adds both to the complexity of the issue and to the amount of interest shown in the subject by students of trade law and economics. Along with the proliferation of the standards themselves has been a minor boom in the literature on the subject.1 However, empirical studies that enable one to generalize on the impacts of standards on trade are still relatively rare.2 As with most issues related to qualitative regulations, finding a basis for the measurement of market impacts is challenging. This chapter will therefore focus on the issue of the impact of private standards on the governance of the international food system rather than attempts to assess the quantitative effects on particular stakeholders. II. WHAT ARE PRIVATE STANDARDS? Standards for products sold on domestic or international markets provide information. Depending on the reliability of the information and conformity with the standard, buyers are given an assurance that the product meets certain requirements and possesses certain attributes. This information is of value to the buyer,...

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