South Asia is home to approximately 1.3 billion people, of whom 70 percent live in rural areas. Therefore, agriculture plays a crucial role in the region’s economy, accounting for close to 28 percent of GDP. But poverty is one of the major issues in South Asia, with 40 percent of the world’s poor (defined as those living on less than $1 a day).
The further opening of international markets to agricultural exports from South Asia promises to raise the standard of living in this region. The inclusion of agriculture under the rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)/World Trade Organization (WTO) is considered one of the main achievements of the Uruguay Round, which in 1986 established the WTO, the successor to the GATT. The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) established a rules-based system of agricultural trade and set guidelines to reduce protection and distortional policies in agricultural trade. However, developing countries did not gain as much as expected under the AoA, so it is imperative that they seize the opportunity to actively and effectively participate in future trade negotiations.
Agriculture, Trade, and the WTO in South Asia is a compilation of studies presented at a World Bank-sponsored regional conference in New Delhi, India, in 1999. The studies have been revised and updated, and provide valuable insights into various issues, perspectives, and interests of South Asia in future WTO trade rounds. The book is intended for policymakers, analysts, and other stakeholders from industrialized and developing countries.