International trade and agricultural development in developing countries: Significance of the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations

Liberalization of world trade in agricultural products ranks high on the agenda of the Uruguay Round. After a period of more than six years, however, the negotiations have not been concluded. Nevertheless, an outcome seems to be in sight. The agreement will most likely not result in a move to freer trade. It seems that domestic policies will become even more regulative than in the past in an attempt to cut exportable surpluses and to ease trade tensions among the main exporting nations. This paper explores possible impacts of the GATT Round on agricultural development in developing countries. Agricultural development is more than only growth in agricultural production or productivity. However, it is argued in the paper that other variables which also indicate agricultural development are often closely correlated with growth in production and productivity. Trade in agricultural products is not always an engine for agricultural development. If internal divergences are not accounted for by appropriate domestic policies, trade may be even harmful to agricultural development. Hence, empirical research based on cross-country analysis does not provide a clear answer about the role of trade for development. Past policies in industrialized countries have most likely had a negative effect on developing countries as a group; however, the effects differ widely across countries. Liberalization policies in industrialized countries would not just reverse these negative effects for developing countries. Price reduction in industrialized countries may not result in the often-cited production decline in the short term. Present X-inefficiency in agriculture will be reduced by liberalization, leading to an outward shift of the supply curve. Hence, liberalization may not lead to higher world market prices for temperate-zone products in the short and medium term. Apart from this, empirical models differ widely in the price effects they predict. The expected outcome of the Uruguay Round - increased regulation of domestic policies - is likely both more negative for developing countries than past protectionist policies and worse than an overall liberalization. World market prices will increase, uncertainty and instability can be expected to grow, and food aid may become less available. There will be a need to react to these challenges with measures on the international and national level. Initiatives to deal with food crises in developing countries and to stimulate liberalization in developing countries should be considered. Finally, developing countries should be made aware that their own domestic policies have a much greater economic impact than policies in other countries, even if the latter are as protectionist as current agricultural policies in the industrialized world.

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Agricultural Economics: The Journal of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, Volume 08, Issue 4
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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-27

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