The breakdown of the WTO negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda has inspired critics to highlight the lack of effort on the part of rich countries to reform their agricultural policies. In this paper, we focus instead the poverty impacts of developing country tariff cuts – particularly those in agriculture. We argue that the Doha Development Agenda is fundamentally less poverty-friendly than it could be -- in large part due to the absence of tariff cuts on staple food products in developing countries. Such cuts would give the poor access to food at world prices, thereby reducing the cost of living at the poverty line. We also explore the contention that such tariff cuts will hurt the poor working in agriculture. Based on our analysis of the impacts of multilateral trade policy reforms on a sample of fifteen developing countries, we find there is some evidence of poverty increases in agriculture. However, such effects are minimized by ensuring that agricultural tariffs are cut in all developing countries. Overall, the poverty-reducing impact of lower food prices dominates; we conclude that the Doha Development Agenda would be more poverty friendly if it were to include deeper cuts in developing country agricultural tariffs. This contrasts sharply with calls for special products exemptions by many developing country advocates.


WTO, poverty, trade liberalization, Doha Development Agenda, agricultural trade

Date of this Version

June 2007

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