Global Rice and Agricultural Trade Liberalisation: Poverty and Welfare Implications for South Asia

Corina Filipescu (University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)

Journal of International Trade Law and Policy

ISSN: 1477-0024

Article publication date: 17 November 2008



Filipescu, C. (2008), "Global Rice and Agricultural Trade Liberalisation: Poverty and Welfare Implications for South Asia", Journal of International Trade Law and Policy, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 91-92.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book provides a study of the challenges, implications and consequences of the global rice and agricultural trade liberalization in four South Asian countries, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with special emphasis on the nature and impact of worldwide rice and agricultural liberalisation on these countries' economies. The authors aim to develop an assessment of the implications in the four mentioned South Asian states in the years following the Uruguay Round Agreement. In addition, the various chapters explore rice and trade liberalisation impact on the welfare and poverty of the aforementioned South Asian economies. In all, the central premise of the book defended and supported by careful computable general equilibrium modelling techniques and interesting case studies, is stimulating for anyone interested in the heritage of contemporary trade liberalisation.

As an exploration into the depth of trade liberalisation in South Asia, Global Rice and Agricultural Liberalisation fulfils its task well. This ambitious and methodologically sophisticated study offers a contribution to the ongoing debate on trade liberalisation and South Asian economy and market. It includes diverse case studies from geographically distinct areas. It studies trade liberalisation not only by examining rice trade, but also by looking at its impact on poverty and welfare. The authors move easily between the current situation of each country studied and the rice and trade liberalisation impact.

The book is divided into six chapters. The first chapter provides the implication of agricultural liberalisation for developing countries dependent on rice production and trade. A key strength of this chapter is the explanation of the methodology used to undertake poverty and welfare analysis. Chapter two presents the result of different liberalisation scenarios by studying the impact of multilateral liberalisation of rice trade on a number of actors in the international rice trade along with the four South Asian countries. The subsequent four chapters present country‐specific case studies. Chapter three reviews the impact of different scenarios in relation to rice and trade liberalisation in Bangladesh. Chapter four looks at the impact of different liberalisation scenarios for the Indian economy and examines the changes in income, welfare and poverty. Chapter five explores whether Pakistan would gain or not by rice and agricultural trade liberalisation. Chapter six follows in the same steps as the previous chapter, but looks at the Sri Lankan economy. This chapter also offers an alternative to further studies that scholars and policy makers should focus on. All chapters have concluding remarks at the end of each section, detailed results and supporting appendixes and explanations of methodology and simulation scenarios applied. An important distinctive feature of this book should be the general overview of the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) application, concluding that rice trade liberalisation increases the price, impacting on welfare and poverty of countries and people who are heavily dependent on rice.

Each chapter includes a concluding section, though the authors do not bring together their findings in a finishing chapter, proposing common points and solutions to the problem. This may be seen as an inconsistency within the book because of its lack of any characteristic unifying conclusion. This issue is raised on the basis that the conclusions of the chapters seem to draw similar remarks. The chapter on Bangladesh clearly states a significant negative welfare and poverty implication for households since the trade liberalisation (p. 80). The chapter on India also identifies an inequality turn out (p. 124). In Pakistan rice and agricultural liberalisation increases the disparity between rich and poor (p. 169). The conclusions on Sri Lankan liberalisation of rice and agricultural markets lead to reductions in household welfare (p. 206). It should also be mentioned that while the empirical information is well articulated, there is a tendency in most chapters to conclude without attributing any potential future research and studies. Yet, these chapters contain a wealth of information and as such will become essential reading for researchers, practitioners and policy makers interested in various aspects of international agricultural trade.

Understanding trade liberalisation in South Asia is not a simple task. There are many factors affecting the situation, one of them being that industry is advancing much faster and is replacing agriculture. It would have therefore been an advantage to explore the links between industry expansion and agriculture. It is the responsibility of authors such as the ones reviewed to attempt to advance the knowledge of this situation so that we may better understand our contemporary circumstances.

I would recommend this book to all researchers and policy makers in the field of international trade. This book provides an excellent “shop‐window” into South Asian trade liberalisation and is an important addition to the growing number of Asian studies. The issues raised by the authors are of principal importance and provide inspiration to practitioners of world trade to debate the subject and continue to unravel the more complicated dimensions of this field. At the same time, it is a useful reference text for academic professionals in touch with international trade issues.

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