The preamble of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) states that the agreement's intent is to establish a more pure market-based agriculture. According to Martin Khor of the Third World Network, "The WTO has stamped a new paradigm for national economic and social policies worldwide, and a new framework of international economic relations."
The AoA focuses on these four areas:
❖ Market access: Countries are required to open national and local economies to foreign commodities, and to import a certain minimum level of agricultural products (referred to as "minimum access" rules).
❖ Reduced "trade barriers": Countries are required to convert import quotas (or "non-tariff" controls) into tariffs (taxes), which must then be reduced and/or eliminated over time.
❖ Domestic supports: Countries are required to diminish production subsidies and other supports that national governments traditionally extended to domestic farmers.
❖ Export competition: Countries are required to bind their level of export subsidies to WTO rules, and then reduce subsidies over time.
While AoA rules have adversely affected small-scale farmers in both the North and the South, those in developing countries are experiencing an especially severe loss of livelihoods for farmers and rapid demise of rural communities. Along with this there is increasing food insecurity and hunger in many regions of the globe. In effect, AoA rules have forced developing countries into reliance on an export-growth agriculture strategy. As a result, developing country farmers find they must export internationally, at suppressed world prices, the very crops that otherwise would be consumed at home. AoA policies have resulted in reduced food security because it shifts production away from food for local needs to production of export crops.
AoA rules have become the flash points for several major conflicts in WTO agriculture talks—on subsidies, commodity dumping, and market access, as follows:
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