Developing country interest in agriculture negotiations

Devel­op­ing coun­tries that stand back from full par­tic­i­pa­tion in trade reforms in the cur­rent round of trade nego­ti­a­tions are only short-chang­ing them­selves and oth­er devel­op­ing coun­tries. That was the mes­sage I offered to a ‘round table’ between the Nation­al Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion and Oxfam Aus­tralia in Can­ber­ra last week. I’ve includ­ed my notes and pre­sen­ta­tion below 

Among the many para­dox­es of trade nego­ti­a­tions is the crit­i­cal impor­tance of agri­cul­tur­al trade to the over­all suc­cess of the round when the sec­tor accounts for a declin­ing por­tion of world trade (now only 9 per­cent of all mer­chan­dise trade)—including of devel­op­ing coun­try trade, where it now accounts for less than 20%, on aver­age, of export earn­ings. Of course, it also accounts for more than half of employ­ment in many of the poor­est devel­op­ing countries.

Anoth­er para­dox: devel­op­ing coun­tries, as a group, secured an up-front con­ces­sion on the final deal in the cur­rent round of nego­ti­a­tions, excus­ing them from full par­tic­i­pa­tion in farm trade reforms. Yet two thirds of the devel­op­ing coun­tries’ poten­tial gains from all trade reforms are like­ly to come from the agri­cul­ture sector—not tex­tiles, which accounts for a lit­tle more than a quar­ter of their poten­tial gains—and more than half of those gains as the result of reforms in oth­er devel­op­ing coun­tries. This is in part because the intra-devel­opo­ing coun­try trade in agri­cul­ture has grown from just over thir­ty per­cent of agri­cul­tur­al exports to more than 40 per­cent of agri­cul­tur­al exports in the decade of the 1990s (se the WTO World Trade Report, 2004 p 16).

In oth­er words, ‘spe­cial and dif­fer­en­tial treat­ment’ as it’s cur­rent­ly con­strued will short­change the poor. The data shows that high-income coun­tries will retain two thirds of the gains from any reforms in which they par­tic­i­pate; so a small­er con­tri­bu­tion by devel­op­ing coun­tries will almost guar­an­tee a poor result for the low-income countries. 

These three propo­si­tions are illus­trat­ed in the pre­sen­ta­tion avail­able here as a slide-show. My “notes” for the talk are also avail­able for down­load (30k .html file) here

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