A New Grey Zone in Global Trade Governance? Recent Developments on Food Security at the World Trade Organization

Matias Margulis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines recent developments by WTO member states to expand policy space for food security in order to demonstrate the appearance of a new grey zone in global trade governance. The chapter is organized as follows. The first section reviews developments in the WTO agricultural negotiations with regard to food security after 2007. The year 2007 is a critical point in time during which the full extent of the global food price crises became known and was followed by a renewed interest in domestic and international food security policies on the part of governments and international organizations. It will be shown that the way in which food security has been taken up at the WTO agricultural negotiations post-2007 was unpredictable, and that WTO members are re-shaping international trade rules in order to expand policy space for food security. This would suggest that the multilateral trade system is capable of more systemic-level flexibility than might have been expected, given the past debates about trade and food security. This exhibition of systemic-level flexibility is distinct from the debates over the efficacy of the new WTO rules for food security, which is increasingly subject to debate, but lies beyond the scope of this chapter. The second section examines an unexpected source of innovative ideas that have informed the WTO agricultural negotiations on food security, which can be traced to the United Nations human rights system. The flow of ideas from the UN human rights system to the multilateral trade system suggests that, under certain global political and economic circumstances, the transfer of knowledge, norms, and ideas may be more likely than otherwise might be assumed by the literature on the governance of trade.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGrey Zones in International Economic Law and Global Governance
EditorsDaniel Drache, Lesley A. Jacobs
PublisherUniversity of British Columbia Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780774838559
ISBN (Print)9780774838535
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2018

Publication series

NameAsia Pacific Legal Culture and Globalization


  • global governance
  • international trade
  • international law
  • food security
  • World Trade Organization
  • food stockholding
  • India
  • Human rights


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