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Explaining the ‘Health Check’ of the Common Agricultural Policy: budgetary politics, globalisation and paradigm change revisited

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Three potential explanations of past reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can be identified in the literature: a budget constraint, pressure from General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO) negotiations or commitments and a paradigm shift emphasising agriculture's provision of public goods. This discussion on the driving forces of CAP reform links to broader theoretical questions on the role of budgetary politics, globalisation of public policy and paradigm shift in explaining policy change. In this article, the Health Check reforms of 2007/2008 are assessed. They were probably more ambitious than first supposed, although it was a watered-down package agreed by ministers in November 2008. We conclude that the Health Check was not primarily driven by budget concerns or by the supposed switch from the state-assisted to the multifunctional policy paradigm. The European Commission's wish to adopt an offensive negotiating stance in the closing phases of the Doha Round was a more likely explanatory factor. The shape and purpose of the CAP post-2013 is contested with divergent views among the Member States.
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Keywords: CAP reform; Doha; Health Check; WTO; budgetary politics; globalisation; multifunctionality; paradigm change

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark 2: School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, Reading, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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