Institutional change in the international governance of agriculture: A revised account

Adrian Kay, Robert Ackrill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article traces the evolution of the international governance of agriculture as a sequential process, in which the negotiation of new trading and enforcement rules interacts with legal disputes over the interpretation of existing rules. The interaction between negotiation and litigation has produced a governance trajectory from vague to precise commitments and a strengthened dispute settlement process. We contest standard histories, which identify the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture as the singular event that established agriculture for the first time under the auspices of the World Trade Organization and which claim this represents the legalization of the agricultural trade regime. The case of agriculture contains important lessons for broader debates on international governance by articulating: (1) dynamic feedback processes, challenging the view that bargaining and enforcement aspects of international agreements are concluded simultaneously, and (2) key mechanisms underlying the greater precision of institutional commitments that tend to emerge over time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-506
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jun 2009
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


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