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Home arrow Research Projects arrow IP5 - Agriculture arrow Project Description IP5
Project Description Print

This project comprises four components:

(1) It seeks to provide an analytical framework for sustainable agricultural trade liberalization

It will have a closer look at the concept of sustainability and how it has evolved in politics, academic circles and international law. It will analyze the stakeholders and their interests in the debate on sustainable development (farmers, consumers, NGOs, government agencies, industry). We argue that the concept has been kept deliberately vague so that it allows each country to define it in terms that best serve its national interest, or at least the prevailing public perception or established political interest groups. We seek to develop a more clearly defined general framework for sustainable agricultural trade that takes into account the concerns of developed as well as developing countries. This framework will be based on international legal principles, economic research as well as social and environmental impact assessments.

(2) International trade rules and their implications will be analyzed on the basis of the framework

Developed and developing countries have different economic, social and environmental concerns and, consequently, chose different strategies in agriculture and sustainable development. This project aims to sort out the different political interests that shape national agricultural policies and drive the official stance of the respective country groups on market access, domestic support measures and export subsidies in the Doha Round. Then, it will try to find out where there are genuine concerns in developed and developing countries as regards “non-trade concerns (NTCs)”, and where these NTCs may be used just as a pretext to protect the interests of powerful political stakeholders back home. In this context, we will have a closer look at the emphasis on special and differential treatment for least developed countries. This part of the project will also look at geographical indications and its potential to balance agricultural trade liberalization and non-trade concerns.

(3) The project analyses the role of science and technology in sustainable agricultural development and poverty alleviation

In developing countries, given the ever-increasing demand for food due to population growth and increasing per capita consumption, the pressure over natural resources (chiefly land and water) is greater than ever. Therefore, developing countries face the challenge of developing agricultural production systems that are capable of addressing both economic and environmental concerns. Innovation in science and technology and investment in public sector R&D by compatible institutions at the national and international levels are argued to be a remedy. However, in mostly affluent societies, the “principle of sustainable development” and the “precautionary principle” are often linked together, which has the consequence that new technologies are merely regarded as producers of risk and uncertainty rather than important contributors to the sustainable management of public goods. In this context, the project will investigate how developed countries may be able to maintain the multifunctional role of agriculture without distorting agricultural trade to the extent that it harms developing countries. At the same time, it will explore the possibilities for developing countries, especially least developed countries in Africa, to address their economic, social and environmental needs more effectively through improved access to technology, technical capacity building, and the promotion of local entrepreneurship.

(4) Policy recommendations

The project will investigate the effectiveness of existing international and national policy instruments to balance agricultural trade liberalization and “non-trade concerns” as well as suggest new instruments that are more consistent with the requirements of the three basic pillars of the Agreement on Agriculture (market access, domestic support measures and export competition). It will aim at contributing to achieve greater coherence at the WTO level, which would provide its members with new rules for future agricultural policies that are more conducive for sustainable development.

Focus of individual researchers

  • IP Leader, Prof. Bernard Lehmann
    Supervising the work of the IP Alternate and the IP PostDoc Fellow

  • IP Alternate Leader, Philipp Aerni
    Analyzing non-trade concerns in the Doha round seen from a political economy perspective; empirical research on different responses to international agricultural trade liberalization: a comparison between New Zealand and Switzerland; investigating the mechanisms of access to science & technology and entrepreneurship in poor developing countries; analyzing the private management of public trust: explaining the growing importance of interdependence sovereignty in national and international agricultural law and policy

  • Post-doc Fellow, Baris Karapinar
    Analyzing the concept of sustainable agriculture with the aim of developing an operational framework for global trade; empirical research on the socio-economic and environmental impact of trade liberalization: a comparison between China and Turkey

  • Senior Consultant, Christian Häberli
    Working on various trade, agriculture and development policy issues

SNF - Swiss National Science Foundation The National Centres of Competence in Research are a research instrument of the Swiss National Science Foundation