Ensuring Food Security Through WTO Rules: Should the ‘Policy Space’ Be Expanded?
The Public Sphere (2015)
10 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2016
Date Written: October 5, 2014
With the developing world’s increasing participation in the global trading system, food security has emerged as a mainstream issue and a potential deal-breaker in trade negotiations, as perceived in the recent Bali Ministerial Conference. While several governments adopt food security programmes as a response to political motivations, it is becoming evident that such programmes, particularly in countries that are net agricultural exporters, are likely to distort global agricultural markets. Undoubtedly, there is a need to contextualize the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture to reflect the current trends in agricultural markets. However, an overhaul of the existing global agricultural trading system to allow countries to adopt protectionist food security policies can be detrimental to the economic stability of the global agricultural market. Annex 2 of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture provides developing countries with an opportunity to implement judicious policies to support their rural farming communities and to contribute to the well being of the domestic agricultural sector. Meanwhile, provisions on food aid, calculation of Aggregate Measure of Support and export restrictions on food need to be re-evaluated to make them relevant to current times. Ultimately, the challenge of creating food security within a country is unlikely to be resolved only by a change in WTO disciplines on agriculture: domestic policy initiatives to address issues related to domestic infrastructure and social protection programmes for poor populations will be necessary to achieve a greater impact.
Keywords: food security, WTO, trade policy, Agreement on Agriculture
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