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Foreword I


nterest in the effect of trade liberalization on agriculture and poverty in developing countries has increased during the past decade, with the agri- cultural sector and the effect of trade liberalization on the poor being the focus of numerous debates in the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotia- tions. The inability to find common ground on these and other issues stalled the negotiations. The global food crisis of 2007–08 further highlighted some of the risks associated with relying on imports for staple foods, as well as the need to strengthen the rules-based agricultural trade system, despite the dif- ficulties involved. The crisis has also led policymakers and researchers to pay greater attention to factors contributing to agricultural growth. Given that global trade liberalization would (probably) raise agricultural prices, concern has focused on net food-importing regions, including the Mid- dle East and North Africa (MENA). Many of the countries in the MENA region have implemented reforms to lower agricultural tariffs, liberalize domestic markets, and improve targeting in consumer-subsidy programs. Nevertheless, trade restrictions and domestic price supports are still prevalent, particu- larly for strategic commodities such as wheat. In addition, the countries vary widely in the degree of liberalization.


There is a large volume of research on trade liberalization in the MENA region, but few studies focus on the impact on small farmers and other poor households. This monograph addresses this gap, combining a review of the existing data and literature on the topic with a new analysis of four case studies of Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and Morocco. The country case studies use household survey data and computable general equilibrium models to esti- mate the effect of different types of trade reform on small farmers or poor households or both.


The results paint a complex picture, in which the impact depends greatly on the type of liberalization, the initial degree of trade protection in the coun- try, and the structure of the economy. For example, global trade liberaliza- tion tends to raise world food prices, which hurts most of the MENA countries on aggregate, but benefits the agricultural sector within these countries. On the other hand, trade liberalization within the MENA countries would lower the price of food, particularly imported staple foodgrains. Finally, the effect of food prices on poverty is somewhat ambiguous because urban house-


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