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Liberalizing Agriculture

Courtesy Reuters

BOUND FOR GLORY

Agriculture will be the make-or-break issue for the United States, the European Union, and the Group of 20 mainly larger developing countries (G-20) at the World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Hong Kong. On the surface, obstacles to an agreement about agriculture seem insuperable. Two years ago, trade talks at Cancún broke down principally because the G-20 rejected U.S. and EU offers in this area. But a careful examination of the current highly complex agricultural trade regime reveals that prospects for an agreement are not as bleak as they appear. After sorting through and assessing the consequences of the different policy instruments now in use, fears of an impasse look misplaced and the outlines of a successful agreement emerge.

Before the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URAA) came into effect on January 1, 1995, international trade in agriculture had remained almost entirely outside of the scope of the

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