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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 May 2006

Institute for International Integration Studies, Trinity College Dublin, Centre d'Etudes Prospectives et d'Informations Internationales, Paris, Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon
Centre d'Etudes Prospectives et d'Informations Internationales, Paris
Institute for International Integration Studies, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics, Trinity College Dublin


Recent analyses suggest that the impact of agricultural trade liberalization on developing countries will be very uneven. The Doha Round focuses on tariff issues, but some developing 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. While South American and East Asian countries should benefit from an agricultural agreement, African and Caribbean countries are unlikely to do so. The main obstacles to the exports of the 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. 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.

Research Article
© Jean-Christophe Bureau, Sébastien Jean and Alan Matthews

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Bureau and Matthews acknowledge the support of the Advisory Board for Development Cooperation Ireland for this research. The authors thank Jacques Gallezot for his help.