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How to address agricultural export restrictions?

The sharp spike in food prices in recent years has sparked fears about food security and raised the spectre of hunger for millions. The causes of this volatility include growing populations, changes in dietary habits, increased use of bio-fuels and climate change. But trade, the conveyor belt between supply and demand, has been a factor too. When governments, often for understandable reasons, employ export restrictions they decrease the available supply of food on world markets and drive prices up. How should the trading system adequately balance the needs of importers and exporters? Nicolas Imboden, Executive Director of IDEAS Centre, and Debapriya Bhattacharya, Centre for Policy Dialogue, discuss this topic with Keith Rockwell, WTO spokesman. You can also make your views known in the online forum below.

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Background: Under WTO rules, countries can restrict exports of agricultural products but only temporarily and they have to comply with GATT Article XI (ie, 11), in this case paragraph 2(a), and with Article 12 of the Agriculture Agreement. These require the restricting country to take into account the impact on importing countries’ food security, to notify the WTO as soon as possible, and as far in advance as possible, to be prepared to discuss the restriction with importing countries and to supply them with detailed information when asked for it.

 

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