Over time, I have collaborated with researchers and practitioners to investigate the global land rush and support responses to it. This action research taught me about the material dimensions of the deals, including their scale, location, crop types, intended markets, varying degrees of implementation, and the way they shook the very foundations of local life, livelihoods and culture. It also highlighted deep-seated tensions between competing visions of agriculture, food systems, territory and society; connections to an evolving global political economy and contested notions of sovereignty and statehood; and the role the law — from land tenure systems to international trade, investment and human rights treaties — has played in facilitating the deals or resistance to them.
Global Economic Power
At the heart of the WTO system is the commitment to the foundational principles of MFN and national treatment. But in a world predicated upon national interest and economic power, the most powerful may not consider multilateral rule-based commitments to be optimal to the achievement of their national interests. One feature of the WTO dispute settlement system is that every Member of the WTO is entitled to have their dispute determined under agreed rules. This is a basic feature of rules-based dispute settlement. The rules, impartially applied, have no regard to the economic power of the parties. The settlement of disputes by recourse to rules of general application yield outcomes that do not depend upon which member is more powerful.