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6 - ‘Agricultural Anarchy’

The Agriculture Challenge to GATT

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 May 2020

Francine McKenzie
Affiliation:
University of Western Ontario
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Summary

Agriculture has long been a highly protected sector of trade. In the 1950s, a GATT waiver allowed the USA to protect agricultural producers and markets, setting a precedent for everyone else, and impeding efforts to liberalize agricultural trade. The challenge was compounded by the belief that agriculture was exceptional, by pressure from domestic politics and agricultural lobbies, and by the association of farm life with national identities. This chapter examines trade negotiations affecting agriculture from the Dillon to the Uruguay rounds as well as efforts to curb protectionist practices such as subsidies. Although GATT s leading members – the USA, the EEC, and Japan – all protected agricultural producers, the Common Agricultural Policy of the EEC was the most formidable obstacle to liberalizing agricultural trade. Increasingly, the USA and the EEC clashed over agriculture and some feared their dispute would cause a trade war. In the 1980s, the Cairns Group of Fair-Trading Nations, led by Australia, pushed for fair trade in agriculture. By the end of the Uruguay round, agricultural trade was being liberalized, but the reversal provoked farm protests worldwide. Agriculture challenged GATT s credibility and exposed competing liberalprotectionist imperatives and nationalistinternationalist tensions that revealed GATT s limitations and opportunities, weakness and resilience.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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