12 Jan 2022
Food Crises (cont’d): What’s Wrong with Trade and Investment Rules?
Journal article by Christian Häberli in Trade, Law and Development Vol. 13 (2), pp. 264-316, published by the National Law University in Jodhpur, India (2021).
This article looks at the food policy decisions taken in times of national or global food shortages. It finds that food security policy changes follow their own logicregardless of their impact on food pricesand food availability, or theircompatibility with World Trade Organization (WTO)Law or United Nations (UN)Conventions. Basically, governments that try to feed consumers without hurting their own producers are bound to manage imports, exports and food reserves actingas a price stabilisation measures.Regulators prefer scaling-up of social safety nets to public-private partnerships—regardless of WTO market access rights of foreign suppliers, let alone the Rightto Food of foreign cash crop producers and food-insecure consumers. Unfortunately, no lessons were learned from the breakdown of the Doha ‘Development’ Round negotiations during the first global food crisis (2007–09). The new WTO rules and disciplines were largely ignored at the time.They were disregarded again at the beginning of the COVID-19pandemic when agri-food trade broke down frequently and prices soared. Yet, trade negotiators keep calling for ‘more of the same’ WTO rules and lower subsidy limits–applicable mainly to other Members. Worse, on-farm greenhouse gas emissions continue increasing without any formal commitments to climate change mitigation measures —without aWTO discussion on the discriminatory nature of most climate footprint reductionmeasures. The impression prevails that food security always takes a back seat. The article concludes that the export bias of the multilateral trading system works against global food security:it prevents agri-food trade from playingits crucial rolein the overriding challenge of feedingten billion people sustainably by the year 2050.