WTO: 2010 NEWS ITEMS

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NOTE:
THIS NEWS ITEM IS DESIGNED TO HELP THE PUBLIC UNDERSTAND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE WTO. WHILE EVERY EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO ENSURE THE CONTENTS ARE ACCURATE, IT DOES NOT PREJUDICE MEMBER GOVERNMENTS’ POSITIONS. THE OFFICIAL RECORD IS IN THE MEETING’S MINUTES

  

SEE ALSO:
Explanation in “Understanding the WTO”

Among the questions and answers in this first meeting of 2010 were exchanges on the latest developments towards agreeing the European Union’s revised commitments to take into account the addition of new members.

Separately — under “other business” — Australia, Brazil and Thailand expressed their concern about the EU increasing its sugar exports, which the EU said is not subsidized.

And the committee agreed that the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) should become an observer. Because WTO members are currently deliberating the issue of new observers, IICA will be an “ad hoc” (ie, not permanent) observer, invited to attend initially meeting by meeting.

These “regular” Agriculture Committee meetings deal with routine WTO work, and not the current negotiations, which take place in separate “special sessions”. The committee comprises all WTO members.

 

Some details

Information sharing, Q&As

The decision to release the questions and answers to the public is part of the committee’s examination of how the information can be shared better, under an evolving work plan on improving notification and access to notified information. The documents will be derestricted after 60 to 90 days under present General Council procedures (document WT/L/452)

The questions members ask each other in the review of notifications, and their replies, come under the committee’s key responsibility of overseeing how countries are complying with their commitments on subsidies and market access. Members can also ask about agricultural measures that have not yet been notified or have not been notified at all.

Previously the exchanges were circulated as unofficial documents, although summaries are available in the meetings’ minutes (officially “summary reports”).

Australia’s questions to EU. Among the questions asked at this meeting, one with broader implications than bilateral interest was from Australia about the method European Union uses to revise its commitments on export subsidies to take into account the addition of new members raising the membership from 15 to 25 and 27. Australia was concerned that this might lead to weaker commitments.

The EU said it understands Australia’s concerns and that Australia is willing to discuss the issues further. It stressed that its membership of 27 is a reality and that work should be based on that fact. It added that the revised export subsidy commitments for the 27 results in a lower amount than simply by adding the EU’s original commitments to those of its new members since export subsidies applied on trade between the original 15 members and the 12 new members are excluded.

(Revising commitments, as in the case of the EU’s expansion, can be complicated. The new commitments have to be accepted by other members and the EU’s efforts have taken some time — replacing the original commitments for the 12-member EU with one for 15 members is only now on the verge of being formally accepted.)

Other questions:

  • New Zealand asked CANADA about its measures on dairy products

  • The US to THAILAND about a requirement to export rice stocks

  • The EU and US to THAILAND on import licensing and tariff quota allocations to state trading enterprises

  • The EU to UKRAINE, suggesting sugar tariff quotas could be allocated to the whole EU instead of specific members

  • The EU to COLOMBIA on whether notified imports in excess of tariff quota quantity were under tariff quota conditions

  • The EU to NORWAY on its tariff quotas

  • The US to CHINESE TAIPEI on its special safeguard on peanuts

  • ALBANIA, CHILE, CZECH REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, EU, NEW ZEALAND, ROMANIA, LITHUANIA, and NORWAY were asked abut details and explanations of domestic support programmes. Questions came from the US, EU, Australia, Canada, and Brazil.


Overdue notifications

Australia continued to urge members to keep their notifications up-to-date, this time highlighting overdue notifications from Venezuela, China, Egypt, India, Rep.Korea, Turkey.


Sugar

Under “other business”, Australia, Brazil and Thailand objected to the EU’s recent decision to export an additional “half a million tonnes” of a particular category of sugar, known as “out of quota” sugar. This will bring the total to almost two million tonnes.

Repeating a statement they recently made in the Dispute Settlement Body, the three referred to the disputes they brought to the WTO (cases DS265, DS266, DS283, which can be found here, where they said the EU undertook to cut its subsidized sugar exports to 1.2735 million tonnes.

The three said they were not consulted about the new exports, which they said had depressed world prices. They urged the EU to provide data on production costs and prices to clarify the rationale for the exports.

The EU said the increase is temporary and the sugar is not subsidized.

 

Chairperson: Ms Valéria Csukasi (Uruguay)

  

Next meetings

(Could be changed)

  • 23 September

  • 18—19 November

 JARGON BUSTER   

• Amber Box: domestic support for agriculture that is considered to distort trade and therefore subject to reduction commitments. Technically calculated as “Aggregate Measurement of Support” (AMS).

• Blue Box: Amber Box types of support, but with constraints on production or other conditions designed to reduce the distortion. Currently not limited.

Green Box: Domestic support for agriculture that is allowed without limits because it does not distort trade, or at most causes minimal distortion.

• notification: a transparency obligation requiring member governments to report trade measures to the relevant WTO body if the measures might have an effect on other members.

special safeguard (SSG): Temporary increase in import duty to deal with import surges or price falls, under provisions that are special to the Agriculture Agreement.

• tariff quota: when quantities inside a quota are charged lower import duty rates, than those outside (which can be high).

> More jargon: glossary

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