Trade Liberalisation and Sustainability: A Case Study of Agro-Food Transport Optimisation
Purpose: The aim of the article is to describe the characteristic features of the international trade in agricultural products, and to determine how the optimisation of international flow of goods could contribute to reducing the environmental burden of transport. Design/methodology/approach: The research is based on a combination of three key databases - FAOSTAT bilateral commodity trade matrices, CEPII distance tables and the EcoTransIT. Findings: It has been proven that the current international trade relations form dense, scale-free networks, shaped under the influence of both bi- and multilateral historical, cultural, political and economic relations is approved. By the application of linear optimisation for the minimisation of total greenhouse gas emissions it can be proven that the trade in wheat is far from optimal. Theoretically, concerning 2016 is possible to reduce environmental pollution by 38%. In the case of maize the re-organisation of the global trade network could reduce pollution by 18%, and in the case of soya beans by 8%. Comparing the difference between actual and optimal transportation networks based of historical data (2007-2016) it could be proven, that the average additional environmental burden, caused by suboptimal international transport were in case of wheat 36%, in case of maize 11% and in case of soya beans 10%. Practical implications: The optimization of the global trade and international transport of these three commodities offers a more than 500 kt/year decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. Comparative analysis of current and optimized trade networks highlights the increasing importance of the role of regional hubs in key exporting states. Originality/value: This fact underlines the importance the efforts for liberalisation of international trade system.