WTO Special Safeguard Mechanism and Farmer Protection

Happy New Year and welcome to 2015!

Our first blog post in 2015 is written by our researcher Dr Jayanthi Thennakoon who recently published an article at a leading journal Food Policy, co-authored with Professor Kym Anderson. Dr Thennakoon shares with us what their research is about.Congratulations Dr Thennakoon on your publication!

The issue of food price volatility has been a controversial part of the agricultural trade liberalization agenda because price volatility poses significant challenges to national governments. With recognition of the adverse implications of low international prices, the World Trade organization (WTO) has offered member countries a number of legal policy measures to manage import surges and price declines. To put it simply, the proposed Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) is one of such measures available for developing country members of the WTO.

In this paper, we offer an empirical analysis for the proposed SSM. It does so by analysing the world rice market as a case study. We demonstrate that the domestic producer benefits that proponents believe the SSM would offer may be illusory, in so far not just food-importing countries but also food-exporting countries actively raise their protection in response to a downward price spike.

We emphasize the importance of strengthening multilateral trade disciplines on both import and export policies,

to reduce beggar-thy-neighbour unilateral responses to international food price fluctuations, as a matter of necessity, particularly, in the context of  current global food and overall economic setup.

By highlighting the possible adverse effects the SSM could have if it is adopted, the results also reaffirm the importance of domestic policies to assist domestic interest groups without relying on trade interventions.

Link to the full-article (subscription required): HERE.


Thennakoon, J. and Anderson, K. (2015). Could the proposed WTO Special Safeguard Mechanism protect farmers from low international prices?, Food Policy 50 (1), 106-113.

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