Adjusting Norwegian Agricultural Policy to the WTO through Multifunctionality: Utilizing the Environmental Potential?

Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, Vol 14, No 2, 2012, pp. 209-227

This article deals broadly with the receptiveness of domestic institutions to international regimes, applying an organizational theoretical approach. More specifically, the aim is to explore how international obligations emanating from multilateral agreements on environment and trade affect Norwegian agricultural policy. Multifunctionality has been portrayed as an adept way of adjusting agricultural policy to the WTO by tapping into the environmental potential. However, closer scrutiny disclosed that this potential for environmental improvements has hardly been utilised.

Partly accounting for this situation is the relatively weak role of the Ministry of the Environment in policy-making, compared to the highly institutionalized domestic interest groups associated with agriculture. The organizational field of agriculture has remained very strong, and hardly subject to normative persuasion from relatively weak international environmental regimes. Moreover, while Norwegian environmental NGOs do have the potential to affect policies, there is very little evidence of pressure for utilizing the environmental potential of multifunctionality. This study points out the strong alliance between rural and environmental grassroots organizations in Norway, with more harmonious relations than those at the ministerial level.