WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
21 Jul 2008

Trade Liberalization Brings Scant Benefit to Rural Latin America, Says New Report

Agricultural trade liberalization has largely failed to bring lasting benefit to rural areas in Latin America, where small-holder agriculture remains a key economic activity, says a new report published by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University.


Trade liberalization has provided a few countries in Latin America with unprecedented export opportunities, say authors Mamerto Pérez, Sergio Schlesinger and Timothy A. Wise in their report The Promise and Perils of Agricultural Trade Liberalization: Lessons from the Americas,” but it has not generated broad-based development and has caused long-term harm to small producers and consumers.  

Two of the authors, Pérez and Wise, will discuss the report at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington on Thursday, July 24 from 10 a.m. to noon. (Read highlights of the event here.)

“This report comes at an important time,” says Vicki Gass, WOLA’s Senior Associate for Rights and Development. “Unregulated trade liberalization in Latin America’s rural sector is clearly a contributing factor to the current food crisis hitting Latin America.  Policy makers in the region, and the U.S., have to re-think the whole package of policies they’ve adopted in recent years.  The new administration and Congress will have the opportunity to reconsider U.S. support for trade liberalization policies and move toward financially supporting small producers who supply local and regional markets.”


Among the report’s main policy suggestions:

  • Governments must invest in the rural sectors – not just anti-poverty programs – to increase production and reduce poverty.   Rural development can bring political stability to hemispheric neighbors, reduce emigration, and offer alternatives to poor rural farmers who might otherwise turn to illicit activities. 
  • Governments in the region must retain the capacity to protect vulnerable populations and resources; to do this, they must be able to regulate imports and exports.
  • Governments must retain their ability to support national industrial development.
  • Governments must guarantee that trade agreements protect farmers’ rights to preserve and strengthen native seeds by withdrawing restrictive intellectual property regimes.


For more information on the CEIP event please contact Ashley Morse at amorse@wola.org or call (202) 7972171.

For more information on the report please contact Vicki Gass at vgass@wola.org or call (202) 797-2171.



The 32-page report was jointly published by GDAE and WOLA.  The report and a three-page executive summary are available for download


To access the report visit: