Agricultural Markets WTO (Negotiations, Regular Work, Leadership)

Don’t Run Alone! – Why the WTO and UNFCCC should work together more closely in the area of agriculture

Agriculture plays a key role in economic growth and sustainable development, particularly for developing countries. At the present juncture, however, the multilateral trading system and the international climate regime have tackled this issue disjointedly, with little in the way of interlinkages. No wonder that progress has been scant in both. The authors propose ways to better align discussions and negotiations. Both organisations have to ensure that their rules and objectives are mutually supportive.

Agriculture is a key sector in both the climate and trade regimes. Moreover, agriculture plays an enormous role in supporting sustainable development. This is especially the case for developing countries, which are more affected by climate change, food security challenges and face more constraints on resources to mitigate climate change.

In the WTO as well as the UNFCCC, agriculture has been a key topic. The two bodies have tackled the issue in different ways, but have similarly acknowledged that agriculture deserves its own track. They have both attempted to stay relevant in a changing world by considering issues outside of their primary areas of expertise. But they have seen only sluggish progress due to the inherent political sensitivity surrounding agriculture, most notably differences between developing and developed countries.

The benefit offered by this approach, in contrast to completing shifting agriculture to a single forum, is that both complement each other through their respective mandates and structures. The WTO as an institution, for example, has expertise in balancing growth and trade concerns with external goals, while the UNFCCC possesses technical expertise in the fields of climate change and agricultural issues. Working together is the only way to leverage these advantages to the maximum.