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Policy space to pursue food security in the WTO Agreement on Agriculture

The State of Agricultural Commodity Markets 2015–16










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    Book (stand-alone)
    Food security, developing countries and multilateral trade rules
    The State of Agricultural Commodity Markets 2015-16 Background Paper
    2015
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    The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) is frequently criticised for not taking sufficient account of the needs of developing countries to pursue policies necessary to promote their food security. This paper assesses the extent to which existing and proposed rules limit the policy space that developing countries might want. It also explores the way in which AoA rules - under the headings of import protection, domestic support and the ability to respond to volatile world market prices - enable tra de to make a positive contribution to food security, while also highlighting areas where the absence of rules, incomplete rules or inappropriate rules hinder the role that trade can make.
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    REVIEW OF BASIC FOOD POLICIES 2002 2003
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    This is the second issue of the Review of basic food policies, which covers policy developments in production, consumption marketing and trade of cereals, oilseeds and livestock products during the period 2001-2002. The policy information contained in the report is taken from country responses to FAO questionnaires and from publicly available sources. The period under review was marked by several significant developments, particularly the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Ministerial Agreement that launched a new round of multilateral trade negotiations. This Agreement has set in train discussions on agriculture that include a review of experience so far with the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (AOA). Thus it is hoped that the examination of agricultural policies that is contained in this and earlier versions of the Review might be of use to countries in their preparations for the negotiations on agriculture.
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    Potential conflicts between agricultural trade rules and climate change treaty commitments.
    The State of Agricultural Commodity Markets (SOCO) 2018: Background paper
    2018
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    Climate change – among its many other challenges – also affects the conditions of competition along the whole food value chain. This article posits that many mitigation and adaptation policies imply a differentiation between otherwise identical products but with different carbon footprints. Where imports are affected, there is a potential for trade frictions. The main issue appears to be a climate-smart treatment of like products with different (non-product-related) production and processing methods (ppm). Now that national governments start implementing their commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, they have to closely look at the trade and investment impact of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The NDCs presently available remain silent on concrete measures involving product differentiation according to footprint differences, be it by way of border adjustment measures, subsidies, prohibitions, or restrictions. The non-discrimination principle enshrined in the multilateral trading system can be a problem for such differentiations. No climate-smart agricultural measures have yet been notified to the World Trade Organization (WTO). But several renewable energy programmes have been found to violate WTO rules. Potential problems could arise, for instance, from differentiating tariffs, import restrictions or taxes according to carbon footprint. Conditions of competition might even be affected by labels signalling products with a bigger (or a “climate-friendly”) footprint, or through subsidies and incentives compensating domestic producers subject to emissions reductions, prohibitions, and input restrictions. A second major problem lies in the way the Paris Agreement and the WTO address the Development Dimension. In the Paris Agreement, the Development Dimension is addressed by the notion of Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR), leaving Parties free in terms of how they take development into account in their NDCs. On the other side, the Special and Differentiated Treatment (SDT) foreseen in all WTO agreements for developing country products and services appears incapable of dealing with the global impact of all emissions, regardless of their origin, or with the negative impact on developing country exports to climate-smart markets in developed countries. In conclusion, we suggest that a review of the climate-relevant trade and investment rules is necessary at the international level, involving climate, and agriculture and trade regulators, supported by scientific, economic and legal expertise. The purpose of this review is to avoid litigation jeopardising the implementation of the Paris Agreement. At the same time, such a review must be comprehensive, because the objective is to ensure maximum policy space for climate mitigation and adaptation without negatively affecting other countries, or unduly restricting trade and investment, especially in poor developing countries. Last but not least, this intergovernmental and inter-institutional review is urgent, because the results should provide as quickly as possible the legal security necessary for investors and operators, regulators, NDC developments and reviews, and international standard-setting processes.

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