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The consequences of agricultural trade liberalization for developing countries: distinguishing between genuine benefits and false hopes

Jean-Christophe Bureau, Sébastien Jean and Alan Matthews

Recent analyses suggest that the impact of agricultural trade liberalization on developing countries will be very uneven. Some simulations suggest that the effects of agricultural trade liberalization will be small, overall, and are likely to be negative for a significant number of developing countries. The Doha Round focuses on tariff issues, but these countries currently have practically duty-free access to European and North American markets under preferential regimes. Multilateral liberalization will erode the benefits of these preferences, which are presently rather well utilized in the agricultural sector. The main obstacles to the exports of sub-Saharan African and least developed countries appear to be in the non-tariff area (sanitary, phytosanitary standards) which increasingly originate from the private sector and are not dealt with under the Doha framework (traceability requirements, etc.). An agreement in Doha is unlikely to solve these problems and open large markets for the poorest countries. It might even increase their handicap relative to developing countries that are more advanced from a technical and commercial standpoint. While this is not an argument to give up multilateral liberalization, a more specific and differentiated treatment should be considered in WTO rules, and corrective measures should be implemented. Keywords: Agricultural Trade, Liberalization, WTO
JEL classification: F13, Q17

Last updated 28 August 2014 by IIIS (Email).