Ten years after the launch of the Doha Round, more and more experts and policy makers are sceptical about the global positive effects caused by the unregulated liberalization of agricultural trade. And now, the economist Jagdish Bhagwati, a professor at Columbia University, though a strong supporter of free trade, is also calling for caution.
During a recent interview with the German media Deutsche Welle , he effectively stated that total liberalization was not good for everyone and it was therefore imperative to identify the winners and losers.
This is particularly crucial for agriculture for two reasons. On the one hand, agriculture is a strategic sector, directly associated with the food security of States, employing more than two thirds of the population in many developing countries. On the other hand, agriculture is also a specific sector, because of its unique exposure to various kinds of risks, natural and market risks, along with its recent financialization and strong growth.
For this reason it is urgent to break with the traditional view that has dominated thinking and discussions on agriculture, according to which, the unregulated liberalization of trade was the best model possible for organizing trade.
The repeated crises experienced by all economies and the increase in global food insecurity have clearly demonstrated the limitations and dangers of such a model, especially when applied to a financialized sector such as agriculture.
A few days before the next WTO Ministerial Conference, to be held from 15 to 17 December, it is essential to reflect on the fundamental reform of Doha rather than trying to rekindle a cycle whose fundamentals, everyone now realizes, are no longer adapted to a world for which it was intended.