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The future of agricultural trade governance in the World Trade Organization

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1167–1184
JournalInternational Affairs
Issue number5
Early online date10 Aug 2017
Accepted/In press29 Jun 2017
E-pub ahead of print10 Aug 2017
Published1 Sep 2017


  • The Future of Agricultural_SCOTT_Accepted29June2017_GREEN SM

    Agriculture_IA_final.pdf, 760 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:29 Jun 2017

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

    This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in International Affairs following peer review. The version of record will be available online at:

King's Authors


Constructing multilateral rules to govern trade in agricultural goods has been notoriously difficult. What success there has been relied on linking liberalization in agriculture to broader deals involving multiple sectors through the principle of the single undertaking, but the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Nairobi ministerial conference of 2015 has abandoned that principle, shifting the multilateral trade system onto a new trajectory. Using the broad body of political economy theory, this article argues that there is now very little prospect that the WTO will be able to liberalize agricultural trade, with the consequence that the WTO will be unable to expand the trade opportunities of those countries that specialize in producing agricultural commodities. For this reason, the multilateral trade system looks increasingly ill-suited to the commercial needs of those low-income countries that are reliant on exporting agricultural goods and the promise of development through expanding trade based on comparative advantage is being tacitly pushed aside. This article argues that the abandonment of the single undertaking demands a deep reflection by WTO member states and other stakeholders on the underlying principles of the WTO, its future direction and how trade opportunities will be created for all within a system that has effectively abandoned further liberalization within agriculture.

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