International Sugar Agreements: Promise and Reality

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Paperback
01/20/2004
$39.95

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Purdue University Press

Description

Large fluctuations in the price of primary-in particular agricultural-commodities began to receive the attention of economists and public affairs leaders at the begin-ning of the twentieth century. The world economic depression of the 1930s gave a new impetus to the concerns and to proposals for countering what became known as the problem of "excessive price fluctuations," especially of commodities in interna-tional trade. Several options were investigated, including: extended agreements for the purchase and sale of commodities; buffer stock; preferably internationally managed export quotas; or various combinations of these three. After World War II, proposals for international action to alleviate the problem became widespread. Under the guidance of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), International Commodity Agreements (ICAs) were presented as a solution to the world's economic ills and problems, especially for lower income countries. Five full-fledged ICAs- for wheat, sugar, coffee, tin, and cacao - were negotiated and put into effect. In addition, international consultative discussion "groups" were established for a large number of commodities, especially under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). However, reality did not follow the promises of theory. During the 1980s every one of the five ICAs collapsed, some with devastating economic consequences. Among the ICAs, the Market Management Agreements on sugar had the longest existence, involved the largest number of countries, and were the best administered, but still did not survive. This volume, an insider's story on the negotiations and administration of the agree-ments on sugar, is the first detailed analysis of the rise and fall of an ICA . Viton presents a unique history of the sugar ICA and discusses the inevitable shortsighted-ness of long-term international economic management while contending that creating arrangements that promote international study and discussion about commodity developments and problems may be more productive in the long run.