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Draft Paper – Not to be cited without author’s permission

Agricultural Subsidies and Trade Issues: The Key Alternatives* DRAFT PAPER

Peter M. Rosset, Ph.D. Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and Center for the Study of Change in the Mexican Countryside (CECCAM)


Overview: Trade versus Development?

Behind the extremely technical debate within the WTO, what is at stake above all are models of agricultural development.

-- Dr. Bruno Losch, French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), France, 2004 1

We hear a lot in the media about “trade wars” between the U.S. and Europe, about steel quotas and cotton subsidies, and about how dissatisfied poor countries are with global

trade rules.

In fact, recent world history has been marked by a global controversy over

trade agreements agricultural trade

and so-called “free trade.”

Within this larger controversy, issues of

and farm subsidies have played a central role.

For most people, it isn’t

really clear what this is all about. But in reality, what’s at stake is not just relatively narrow measures like trade volumes, economic growth rates and farm productivity, but rather the very future of our global food system. What is being negotiated – in a world where nearly half the population goes hungry – is the ability of every woman, man and child on this planet to feed themselves The future of each country’s unique agriculture and farming systems, and of the livelihoods of rural people worldwide, is quite literally in


The global debate over farm trade and subsidies is critical yet confusing, full of common misconceptions and doublespeak. The goal of this paper is to sort out this confusion, and take a look at some possible alternative policies that might offer a way out of the conundrum.

  • *

    Paper commissioned by The Global Policy Innovations Project of the Carnegie Council

on Ethics and International Affairs. For more information, please write to policyalternatives@cceia.org


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