The Political Economy of International Trade Law: Essays in Honor of Robert E. Hudec

By Daniel L. M. Kennedy; James D. Southwick | Go to book overview

9
Agriculture on the way to firm international
trading rules
STEFAN TANGERMANN

Introduction

There are probably few areas in world trade where the proposition that international trade law is a matter of political economy–as reflected in the theme of this book–is so notoriously obvious as in agriculture. And there are certainly few, if any, other papers that describe and analyze the political economy of international trade law for agriculture assagaciously and convincingly as Bob Hudec's 1998 paper for the International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium (Hudec 1998). Whole generations of agricultural specialists, the present author included, have written hundreds of papers and books about the treatment of agriculture in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Hudec, for whom agricultural trade law and policy is but one of the many areas he has covered in his research, needs no more than a few pages to explain in peerless clarity and profound technical competence the interplay between political economy and international law in the agricultural morass that plagued the GATT for a long time.

A few citations may suffice to highlight the way Hudec characterizes the situation of agriculture in the GATT before the Uruguay Round.1 He starts by noting that “according to conventional wisdom, the original GATT agreement, which lasted from 1947 to the end of 1994, was highly successful in reducing barriers to international trade in industrial goods, but it was a conspicuous failure in reducing barriers and other distortions to trade in agricultural products. ” Hudec then examines “the extent to which the GATT's weak performance in the area of agricultural trade was caused by weaknesses in its rules or weaknesses in its enforcement procedure. ” In a short discourse about the enforcement of international rules, Hudec states that “if governments lack the political will to obey the rules, the rules will not work, no matter how well they are crafted. ” “As we examine the relative strengths and weaknesses of GATT rules and procedures, the question that will always be before us will be how this particular strength or weakness affects the process of internal decision-making in the target government–essentially, how will it affect the relative power of those participants in that decision-making process who favor

____________________
1
All citations until the next footnote are from Hudec, 1998, passim. I have taken the liberty to change the sequence of some of these citations from that in the original text.

-254-

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