The International Politics of Agricultural Trade: Canadian-American Relations in a Global Agricultural Context

By Theodore H. Cohn | Go to book overview
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3
The Organizational Setting

This chapter examines some of the cross-national organizations and groups that have dealt with food and agriculture since Canadian-American relations have been shaped in part by this organizational setting. An examination of these intergovernmental bodies is of particular relevance to one of the agricultural-specific variables, "the strength of the agricultural trade regime." Since the late 1940s, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) has been responsible for much of the normative, rule-creating and rule-supervisory activity in international trade. Examples of GATT norms include the precept that trade liberalization is a valuable objective; GATT rules include the obligation of members (or contracting parties) to grant most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment to each other; and GATT supervisory functions include the rendering of decisions when member states formally register complaints against each other. 1

Despite the GATT's pre-eminence among international organizations involved with trade, it has treated agriculture as an exception from an early date. As a result, the principles and rules for regulating agricultural trade are very rudimentary. Frustration with the GATT led to the use of other international organizations (such as the Food and Agriculture Organization) to deal with agricultural trade issues, but they are more consultative in nature than the GATT, and their jurisdiction is limited. In this and subsequent chapters, I outline some of the effects of the inadequacy of the agricultural trade regime on Canadian-American relations. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, the two countries supplemented multilateral mechanisms for resolving agricultural trade disputes and promoting co-operation with a series of bilateral committees or groupings. These groupings ranged from formal committees--such as

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