16 Apr 2013

A Fruitful Discussion on Agricultural Trade in Chile

Dr Sofia Boza, Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Chile and a visiting fellow at the WTI, sheds light on her goals as an academic and as a researcher involved in the SECO / WTI Academic Cooperation Project.

You have already achieved so much in your life before the age of 30. When and how did you realize that you would like to become an academic?

When I was completing my Bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Seville, I was very impressed by the work of some of my professors. As an academic, you have the opportunity to learn continuously and that is very appealing to me.

What do you hope to achieve through your teaching and your research?

Through my teaching, I hope to leave a lasting impression on my students. When they are professionals, I hope that they will have found my lectures to have been useful and will remember me. I don’t want them to forget what I taught them. If I can be an example for them by demonstrating that I am committed to my work, I hope that they will do the same when they are professionals.

Research-wise, I would like to do something useful for Chile. My aim is to help producers and small farmers by liaising with politicians to improve policy in the agricultural sector. I work in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Chile, which is part of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences. There, I am involved in assessing the impact of agricultural policies. For example, now I work on non-tariff measures in agricultural trade. This means that I examine the implications of food safety and technical requirements, such as traceability, labelling and acceptable pesticide residues in agricultural trade.

You are at the WTI for several months as a visiting fellow. What is the focus of your visit?

Here, I would like to approach the legal perspective of this topic. I have an economics background and I would like to talk to academics and researchers in the field who have a legal point of view on agricultural politics and trade issues.

I understand that you had some meetings at the World Trade Organization several weeks ago and spoke with the Chilean Ambassador. Could you tell me more about that meeting?

I had the opportunity to meet one of the Ambassador’s assistants at a seminar at the WTO that was part of the SECO / WTI Academic Cooperation Project. Through that initial meeting and through the WTI’s connections, I was able to arrange for a meeting with the Ambassador. The Ambassador was kind to make time to have lunch with me while we spoke on an informal basis about my research topic and agricultural issues that are related with Chilean reality. I hope to perhaps meet him again at the University of Chile, with which he has occasionally collaborated.

How are you involved in the SECO / WTI Academic Cooperation Project?

I have been cooperating with Professor Dorotea López and Professor Felipe Muñoz from the International Studies Institute of the University of Chile, because we are starting a research network on agriculture and trade. One of the activities in this research network is my fellowship here at the WTI as a part of the SECO / WTI Academic Cooperation Project. I can further my research at the WTI and then bring my knowledge back to the University of Chile.

In your view, what are the benefits of collaborating with the WTI on this Project?

It has been amazing in the sense that I have had the opportunity to speak about my research with a number of WTI academics, including Christian Häberli and Arthur Appleton and with researchers from the WTO and UNCTAD, among others. I also had lessons with Bernard Hoekman, a reference to any economist. Exchanging ideas with renowned experts in the trade field helped me to update my own information. I noticed that my research topic, sanitary and technical standards, is very important to major institutions like the WTO. They are talking about the research topic that I am pursuing, which has allowed me to obtain high-quality feedback.

On another note, spring has finally arrived in Berne. Besides conducting research at the WTI, is there anything else you hope to discover or pursue during your visit?

I was here five years ago on holidays so I have seen some of the country’s highlights. My parents are flying here to spend time with me, which is a nice opportunity. As I am in Chile and they are in Spain, we don’t meet very often, so I am looking forward to seeing them again.