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Empathizing with France and Pakistan on Agricultural Subsidy Issues in the Doha Round

Posted by on Friday, August 10, 2012 in Articles, Vol. 40 No. 4, Volume 40, Volumes.

Among the most contentious issues (if not the most contentious issue) in the Doha Round negotiations are agricultural subsidies.  Developed countries stand accused of selfish adherence to domestic support and export subsidies that impoverish farmers in developing countries.  Developing countries are blamed for self-inflicted wounds, caused by stubborn adherence to protectionist policies, covering both agricultural and industrial sectors.  Agricultural subsidy cuts, as well as increased market access, are politically impossible for developed countries to concede without reciprocal access from developing countries, not only on farm products, but also in non-agricultural markets and service sectors.

There has been, and continues to be, plenty of dialogue among the trade officials of WTO Members.  Is it a dialogue of the deaf?  Do developed countries appreciate that poor countries face daunting challenges in reforming their trade regimes?  While the challenges must be faced sooner or later, do developed countries understand the fine line in some developing countries between aggressive trade liberalization urged by moderates and descent into a failed statehood dominated by autarkic extremists?  Conversely, do developing countries appreciate that developed countries may have legitimate concerns about the economic and non-economic functions of their farm sector?  Do they appreciate the progress made in reform to this sector?

This Article explores these questions in two steps.  First, Pakistan and France are case studies of the Group of 20 (G-20) developing countries and the European Union (EU), respectively.  The problems faced in each country, in respect of agriculture, are presented.  For Pakistan, special attention is paid to rural poverty in the context of overall economic reform pushed forth by President Pervez Musharraf.  For France, emphasis is placed on how the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) works and has been altered since the 1992 MacSharry Reform.  Second, the G-20 and EU negotiating positions in the Doha Round on agricultural subsidies are explained and analyzed.  These positions relate directly to the difficulties faced by the likes of Pakistan and France in their agricultural sectors.

Empathy is the theme underlying this Article.  Neither side should demonize or be demonized by the other.  Both sides have legitimate concerns, not the least of which is food security, a constant worry in front-line states on the “War on Terror,” and a founding principle of the CAP.

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