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Institutional change in the international governance of agriculture: a revised account


  • Adrian Kay
  • Robert Ackrill


The place of agriculture in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) prior to 1986 is usually described in terms of either exclusion or exemption from general trading rules. This paper reevaluates the ‘exemption’ argument and its corollary that the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) represented a punctuated equilibrium in the governance of agriculture. Instead it traces the dynamics of institutional change through the history of the GATT/WTO, distinguishing between multilateral trading rounds and the framework of trade rules as separate but linked contexts for addressing agricultural trade matters; and further disaggregating the latter into broad principles and specific rules. It is argued that the broad principles lacked detail but, paradoxically, initially this facilitated an approach to dispute settlement based on conciliation. Subsequent trade tensions exposed an inability to make definitive legal decisions on the compatibility of specific national rules with broad GATT principles. The AoA is rooted in these institutional antecedents, but claims of the legalization of the trade regime are belied by a continued reliance on political flexibility and bargaining.

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  • Adrian Kay & Robert Ackrill, 2008. "Institutional change in the international governance of agriculture: a revised account," Working Papers 2008/4, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham Business School, Economics Division.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbs:wpaper:2008/4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hooghe, Liesbet & Marks, Gary, 1997. "The Making of a Polity: The Struggle Over European Integration," European Integration online Papers (EIoP), European Community Studies Association Austria (ECSA-A), vol. 1, April.
    2. Swinbank, Alan, 2004. "Dirty Tariffication Revisited: The EU and Sugar," Estey Centre Journal of International Law and Trade Policy, Estey Centre for Law and Economics in International Trade, vol. 5(1).
    3. Welch, Catherine & Wilkinson, Ian, 2005. "Network perspectives on interfirm conflict: reassessing a critical case in international business," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 205-213, February.
    4. Wyn P. Grant & John T.S. Keeler (ed.), 2000. "Agricultural Policy," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, volume 0, number 1655.
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