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Combatting a Crisis of Global Food Protectionism Sparked By the War in Ukraine

By: Daniel C.K. Chow & Ian M. Sheldon

The world is currently gripped in a food crisis of historic proportions that is threatening tens of millions of people in the poorest countries of the world with famine and starvation. Sparked by the war in Ukraine, this crisis is being made worse by nations imposing export

restrictions on food in a misguided attempt to curb soaring domestic food prices. Export restrictions are “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies that prevent increases in domestic food prices but at the expense of raising world prices, exacerbating the crisis.

Although nations have turned to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for help in removing these export restrictions, the WTO is currently an organization in disarray that lacks the legal tools and the political will to effectively address this global crisis. Unlike the WTO,

many free trade agreements (FTAs) such as the United States-Mexico- Canada Trade Agreement and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (EU), contain effective legal tools to curb export restrictions on food.

At the moment, FTAs are proliferating all over the world and have now displaced the WTO as the most effective means for eliminating or overcoming export restrictions on food. It is now up to the EU and the United States, the principals of the world’s most robust FTAs, to take the lead in demonstrating how FTAs can be used to effectively to combat a catastrophic food emergency. This Article proposes an innovative solution through the use of FTAs by the United States and the EU to create a free trade conduit for food exports to meet demand in world markets without a spike in prices in a time of crisis.


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