Are Right to Food and Global Trade Compatible? Here is Professor’s Giustiniani view.

In her article, Professor Giustiniani investigates the complexities of the relationship between the right to food in international law and global trade. Right to food is a universal human right. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, directly inspired by the Rooseveltian speech, establishes the right of everyone to a standard of living that should be adequate for the health and well-being of themselves and of their family, including, in the first place, food. Analogous provisions are incorporated in the United Nations (UN) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and in many other covenants. Right to food is defined as the availability of food in sufficient quantity and quality and sustainable accessibility for people to care for themselves and their own food needs. Three levels of state obligations are emphasized: (a) respect people’s existing access to adequate food by abstaining from adopting measures that may result in disrupting it; (b) protect the right to food by taking steps to prevent non-state actors from engaging in similar interference; and (c) fulfil the right to food by facilitating people’s access to food and directly providing food to those unable to provide for themselves. The right to food is thus conceived as the right to feed oneself in dignity, and not the right to be fed (except in extreme circumstances). Despite the importance of the right to food, no World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement seeks to regulate, nor even mentions, it. Nevertheless, these instruments have serious implications for its realization. In particular, the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) has a huge impact on the right to food. What is striking is that the AoA does not mention the right to food but, instead, refers to food security. The Preamble of the Agreement, in fact, includes food security among the Non-Trade Concerns (NTCs) that WTO members should consider. The AoA, despite incorporating a special and differential treatment for developing countries, favors developed countries disproportionately, as it permits that many agricultural products continue to trade at prices well below the production cost, with devastating effects for the local producers in developing countries. At the same time, products exported from developing countries still face high tariffs on the markets. As Professor Giustiniani points out, the negative impact that WTO obligations, and in particular those deriving from the AoA, have on the right to food is not inevitable. In principle, WTO and human rights obligations are not incompatible. What is required is that member states define their positions in trade negotiations in accordance with national strategies for the realization of the right to food and always conduct human rights impact assessments of trade agreements.