IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Latin American Agricultural Trade: The Role of the WTO in Sustainable Virtual Water Flows


  • Niemeyer, Insa
  • Garrido, Alberto


International agricultural trade has been growing significantly during the last decade. Many countries rely on imports to ensure adequate food supplies to the people. A few are becoming food baskets of the world. This process raises issues about the food security in depending countries and potentially unsustainable land and water use in exporting countries. In this paper, we analyse the impacts of amplified farm trade on natural resources, especially water. Farm exports and imports of five Latin America countries (Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Chile) are examined carefully. A preliminary analysis indicates that virtual water imports can save valuable water resources in water-short countries, such as Mexico and Chile. Major exporting countries, including Brazil and Argentina, have become big exporters due to abundant natural resource endowments. The opportunity costs of agricultural production in those countries are identified as being low, because of the predominant green water use. It is concluded that virtual water trade can be a powerful tool to alleviate water stress in semi-arid countries. However, for exporting nations a sustainable water use can only be guaranteed if environmental production costs are fully reflected in the commodity prices. There is no basis for erecting environmental trade tariffs on exporters though. Setting up legal foundations for them in full compliance with WTOs processes would be a daunting task.

Suggested Citation

  • Niemeyer, Insa & Garrido, Alberto, 2011. "Latin American Agricultural Trade: The Role of the WTO in Sustainable Virtual Water Flows," 2011 International Congress, August 30-September 2, 2011, Zurich, Switzerland 114615, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:eaae11:114615

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jeffrey J. Reimer & Man Li, 2010. "Trade Costs and the Gains from Trade in Crop Agriculture," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1024-1039.
    2. Yang, Hong & Zehnder, Alexander J. B., 2002. "Water Scarcity and Food Import: A Case Study for Southern Mediterranean Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(8), pages 1413-1430, August.
    3. Hoekstra, Arjen, 2010. "The relation between international trade and freshwater scarcity," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2010-05, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
    4. Wichelns, Dennis, 2004. "The policy relevance of virtual water can be enhanced by considering comparative advantages," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 49-63, April.
    5. Aldaya, M.M. & Allan, J.A. & Hoekstra, A.Y., 2010. "Strategic importance of green water in international crop trade," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 887-894, February.
    6. Vousden,Neil, 1990. "The Economics of Trade Protection," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521346696, March.
    7. Yang, Hong & Wang, Lei & Zehnder, Alexander J.B., 2007. "Water scarcity and food trade in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(5-6), pages 585-605.
    8. Bartolini, F. & Bazzani, G.M. & Gallerani, V. & Raggi, M. & Viaggi, D., 2007. "The impact of water and agriculture policy scenarios on irrigated farming systems in Italy: An analysis based on farm level multi-attribute linear programming models," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-3), pages 90-114, March.
    9. Eglin, Richard, 2001. "Keeping the "T" in the WTO: where to next on environment and labor standards?," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 173-191, July.
    10. Maria Berrittella & Katrin Rehdanz & Roberto Roson & Richard S.J. Tol, 2006. "The Economic Impact Of Water Pricing: A Computable General Equilibrium Analysis," Working Papers FNU-96, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Jan 2006.
    11. Ringler, Claudia & Rosegrant, Mark W. & Paisner, Michael S., 2000. "Irrigation and water resources in Latin America and the Caribbean: challenges and strategies," EPTD discussion papers 64, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    farm trade; water; blue water; green water; global sustainability; food production; global food demand; water pricing; WTO; International Relations/Trade; Resource /Energy Economics and Policy;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:eaae11:114615. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.