Vigilant gatekeepers: Standards, food chains and Africa

Stefano Ponte (Copenhagen Business School)
History, politics and urban studies
Khalili Lecture Theatre
Start time:
12 September, 2006 at 16:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:


Long abstract:

Globalisation has set in motion four inter-related processes in the past two decades, with profound consequences for African countries. These are, first, a marginalization of African countries in international trade, despite the rapid expansion in the volume and spread of international trade. Second, the increasingly critical role of global firms (both as retailers and producers) in organising complex networks of globally dispersed suppliers through value chains. Third, changes in the traditional forms of governance in international trade with an increasing significance of private actors - from corporate interests to non-governmental organisations - working alongside public bodies at the national and international level. And, finally, the growing importance in international trade of compliance with global standards. These include standards on product and processes especially with regards to health and safety, quality assurance, environment, labour and social concerns. In an era of formal trade liberalisation, standards point to the new rules of trade. Standards are replacing tariffs as the main trade barriers facing African agro-food exports. They derive from public and private sources. Public standards are set at the international, regional and national levels. Private standards are set by firms, industry organisations, and by NGOs. The panel focuses upon new standards that are emerging from both sources, and the challenges they present to developing country producers and exporters. Specifically, it examines: (1) the setting and implementation of new social, environmental and food safety standards for agro-food products – with a focus on public and private standards in the EU; and (2) the levels of compliance with new standards by producers and exporters in developing countries, costs and benefits, and pre-conditions and consequences (including distributional ones) of compliance and non-compliance.