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Texto para discussão 07/2006

The long road to free trade for agriculture
Nilson M. de Paula*

The difficulties for the conclusion of another round of trade negotiations under the supervision of WTO can be interpreted as inherent ingredients of the multilateral trade system, particularly after agriculture became the main issue during the Uruguay Round talks. As a result, agriculture is once again in the core of negotiations, given the reluctance of developed nations to implement reforms in their policies according to what had been previously agreed upon. The cross roads at which the negotiations have been reveal not only different options for organising trade itself, but also a conflict between the principles of free trade, embodied in most of technical assessments, and the actual political decisions taken by national governments affecting international economic relations. This paper aims to discuss the evolution of international trade for agricultural products in the light of multilateral negotiations during the Doha round. Two main arguments are presented in this paper. Firstly, there is a persistent clash between free trade and protectionism, mainly due to a widespread strategy aiming to reduce the impact of competition on local business. Secondly, countries have increasingly engaged in bilateral agreements, leading trade to become deeply fragmented in a context where agriculture has been intensely protected in developed countries, whereas industrial activities have been the target of protection in developing nations.

* Departamento de Economia da Universidade Federal do Paraná.

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