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全球粮食安全与营养论坛 · FSN论坛

Re: Examining the linkages between trade and food security: What is your experience?

Biswajit Dhar
Biswajit DharJawaharlal Nehru University, New DelhiIndia

This is a fascinating discussion and I do regret joining it so late.

I think Susan has introduced the extremely relevant issue of “non-trade” measures. Carving out the non-trade measures is indeed a task that the trade regime has not addressed despite being called upon to do so on numerous occasions.

The architects of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) had stated in the preamble to the Agreement that the “reform programme [initiated by the AoA] should be made in an equitable way among all Members, having regard to non-trade concerns, including food security ...” (emphasis added). But, despite the fact that the importance of food security was noted, the AoA did not include specific provisions that WTO members could use to ensure food security for their populations. This issue came up once again during the mandated review of the AoA in 1999, which also saw a number of interventions aimed at formalising food security as a non-trade concern. Finally, the Doha Declaration spoke of the mainstreaming of the special and differential treatment in the AoA “so as to be operationally effective and to enable developing countries to effectively take account of their development needs, including food security and rural development” (emphasis added). In the agriculture negotiations in the Doha Round, the G-20 and the G-33 groupings pushed for the “special products” and “special safeguard mechanism” as two instruments that can help in realising the objective of food security and rural development. The issue of “public stockholding for food security purposes” reminded us once again that the developing countries’ efforts to meet the objective of food security in the policy regime underlined by the AoA can face serious headwinds.

Two decades of implementation of AoA has made it fairly obvious that the objectives like food security do not sit well with the rules of trade liberalisation. In fact, recognition of “non-trade concerns” like food security are seen to run counter to fundamental tenets of trade liberalisation, for such concerns can only be addressed through the use of policy instruments. One of the key objectives of trade liberalisation is to limit the policy space available with the governments, so that they are not able to introduce policy instruments that “distort” the functioning of the markets.

Therefore, the real challenge is to design a framework wherein trade rules and agriculture policies can be mutually supportive. Further, agricultural policies must be anchored on the needs of the small-holders, since this is the section that suffers from the worst forms of food insecurity. This implies that the key to ensuring food security at the household level in a large majority of developing countries is to provide security of livelihoods for the small and marginal farmers. There is overwhelming experience that the markets do not recognise the needs of these producers and therefore policy interventions are necessary to support them. While the details of the interventions can be worked out on a case-by-case basis, it is imperative that a robust framework is developed for dealing with the scourge of food insecurity.