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On the Necessity of International Disciplines on Food Export Restriction (Japanese)

Kazuhito Yamashita

Discussion Papers (Japanese) from Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI)

Abstract: The world food trade is distorted by agricultural trade policies. Import tariffs and non-tariff barriers are regulated by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and are disciplined as a result. On the other hand, export quantity restrictions and export taxes have been lightly regulated. This lack of regulation has led many exporting countries to resort to these export measures as world food prices increase. In 2008, as world grain prices soared, China and India took such measures which resulted in a food crisis in food-importing, developing countries such as the Philippines. In 2012, the severe drought in the United States pushed the international prices of corn and soybean to a record-high level. The international society is becoming concerned with the disciplines on food export restrictions, and this issue was discussed by the leaders in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) regions in Vladivostok, Russia. Regarding corn, wheat, and soybean, however, major exporting countries export the majority of their production. Furthermore, they are developed countries whose consumers can afford to buy food at high prices, and will continue to export even if they yield a terrible harvest. Rice is an exception. Major exporters are developing countries. We cannot force these countries to continue to export while they are experiencing a food crisis and have many starving people who are unable to afford food at high prices. Furthermore, Japan is a self-sufficient country which does not depend on rice imports, but has isolated its domestic market with a high tariff on rice. In brief, there is little-to-no chance that major exporting countries will resort to export restriction measures for major grains with the exception of rice. Although the stakes for rice are high, Japan does not need any international disciplines on food export restrictions since it does not depend on foreign countries. Japan's proposals on international disciplines on food export restrictions in international fora such as the WTO have not been based on the real interests.

Pages: 35 pages
Date: 2013-02
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