A (weak) case for food trade liberalization

Dr Supachai begins by making the orthodox but fundmental observation that “food self-sufficiency is not equivalent to food security.” Autarky has never been a sensible policy either for growth or for food security. If it were then North Korea really would be the “workers’ paradise” (the former Albania, too). bq. Today there is, however, the realisation that a sustainable domestic food supply cannot be ensured by each government acting individually. History has repeatedly shown that protectionism and isolation from world markets have never been the right answer. “WTO”:http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/spsp_e/spsp37_e.htm He then demonstrates that those developing countries that have grown fastest—including countries with low income levels such as China— are those that have been most open to trade. He also brings this lesson back to the agriculture sector and agricultural trade bq. For many [developing] countries, including the poorest amongst them, how well they do economically depends on how well they do in agriculture. Of course, improvements in agricultural output and export performance depend on a wide range of factors outside the trade policy sphere. But it is widely accepted and understood that a further reduction of trade barriers and trade-distorting subsidies will help boost the economic performance of developing country agricultural producers. But when it comes to the exaggerated, mis-directed concerns about market access liberalization in the Doha round of negotiations—concerns fanned by Oxfam’s latest “propaganda”:http://www.maketradefair.com/en/index.htm efforts—Supachai backs away! bq.  I know that there are concerns that trade liberalization somehow poses a “threat” for food security. This really is a misperception … Firstly, to facilitate their transition to a more liberal trading environment in agriculture, developing countries will have access to a range of special and differential treatment (SDT) provisions. This means lower cuts in tariffs, trade-distorting domestic support and export subsidies, and longer implementation periods …  Secondly, all developing countries, including LDCs, will have access to a range of policy instruments including Sensitive Products, Special Products and the new Special Safeguard MechanismThirdly, developing countries can also rest assured that most of their development programmes to ensure food security will hardly be affected by the WTO domestic support reforms, to the extent that they are non-trade distorting and are covered by the Green Box of the Agreement on Agriculture. What a confused message! How will it help developing countries achieve the greater food security and growth that trade liberalization promises if the basis of their own participation in the Doha reforms is a collection of vaguely specified excuses from reform?

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