Trade and agriculture
Since the inception of the original GATT in 1947, agriculture has been an exception to general trade liberalization trends in the multilateral trading system, and it has proven to be a persistently divisive trade issue, including in the multilateral Uruguay and Doha Rounds, where agriculture has been an intractable challenge for negotiators. A number of rationales have been offered for why agricultural production should be viewed differently, from a normative perspective, from other commodities or manufactured goods (often captured in the term “multifunctionality” of agriculture), as a matter of trade policy, and hence justify exceptional levels or forms of protectionism. These rationales are reviewed in Section II. Various positive political economy rationales for agricultural exceptionalism are then reviewed in Section III. The measures commonly employed to support the agricultural sector are reviewed in Section IV, and estimates of the cost of protectionism are provided in Section V. Section VI then sets out the relatively relaxed but evolving multilateral legal framework for trade in agricultural products.
In 2018, the World Food Programme estimated that, globally, 821 million people, most of whom reside in developing countries, did not have enough to eat.2 Thus, assuring access to affordable food – food security – is a priority for many governments. Food security presents some major challenges. These include short-term domestic food crises caused by droughts, floods or pestilence as well as longer-term trends that suggest declining domestic capacity in some countries to produce food; temporary price volatility; and potential future price increases as a...
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