WTO: 2012 NEWS ITEMS

AGRICULTURE: FORMAL MEETING

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NOTE:
THIS NEWS STORY 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.

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MINUTES:

Also discussed in the committee were the on-going questions of whether Canadian and Swiss private sector schemes affecting prices constitute subsidies, Ukraine’s plan to renegotiate its tariff commitments, India’s export policy and Indonesia’s import restrictions on some food products.

And Argentina repeated its concern about market obstructions in the form of regulations that have no scientific or technical justification.

These were among over 30 issues that were the subject of questions on how fellow-members are implementing their commitments on domestic support, market access, and export subsidies under the Agriculture Agreement.

Chairperson Emalene Marcus-Burnett (Barbados) also said she would hold an informal meeting in October so members can continue discussions on “significant exporters”. This is an issue that contributes to transparency, requiring the listed countries to provide information on relevant export volumes so that the committee can monitor any potential use of export subsidies. The list is but members differ over how to alter lists of products and exporters.

Some details

The “regular” Agriculture Committee’s task is to monitor how governments are implementing their obligations under the agreement and discuss issues that arise. Its meetings are separate from the current negotiations (www.wto.org/agnegs) which take place in separate “special sessions”.

The questions members ask each other in the review of notifications, and their replies, come under one of the committee’s key responsibilities of overseeing how countries are complying with their commitments on subsidies and market access.

Efforts continue on how to improve this. The Secretariat organized a workshop during the week to help countries to improve their notification record and to participate more fully in the reviews, with 28 participants from capital also attending the committee meeting. The practices of some members in furnishing detailed written replies to questions raised and to transmit those to the concerned delegations before the meeting were praised. That made it easier to understand complicated issues and enhanced the efficiency of the committee’s work, delegates said.

Since the last meeting, 27 new notifications were received, delegates were told. Most of the questions in this meeting were about these notifications, some followed up on queries in previous meetings. Members can and do also ask about agricultural measures that have not yet been notified or have not been notified at all.

The questions and answers can be found here when they have been processed and derestricted after a few weeks.

 

Renegotiating commitments

China continued to complain that the EU has not included it among members negotiating changes to EU import commitments on prepared poultry meat products.

This is an issue that has more general implications about the right to be part of negotiations over altered commitments. China wants the EU to recognize it as a supplier with “substantial interest”, having negotiating rights under GATT Art.28, which deals with changes to commitments.

The EU has argued that China does not have a substantial interest since it supplied less than 10% of EU imports in 2006–2008. In document G/AG/W/100 (restricted but normally available publicly after a few months), China counters that those years should not be used since its exports were restricted by EU sanitary and phytosanitary measures (food safety and animal and plant health).

In this meeting, China was supported by Argentina and the US. The EU said it is scrupulously following WTO rules, including on the three-year reference period.

Ukraine is also seeking to renegotiate some of its tariff commitments, including on agricultural products. The US said it is concerned that this upset the balance struck when Ukraine negotiated WTO membership, and noted that the document circulated does not say what the proposed new rates are.

Ukraine said its actions are legal under GATT Art.28, and that it cannot discuss the tariff rates multilaterally, only bilaterally.

 

Exceeding domestic support limits

Costa Rica’s breach of its domestic support committed ceiling from its rice programme continued to raise concern among members. Although the latest notification shows a slight reduction, they said this was not enough — the US said that at that rate, Costa Rica would take 20 years to be within its commitment.

Costa Rica updated members on the latest situation. Key to this is a recent judicial ruling that a proposed government decree to alter the rice prices support is null and void. Expressing concern in this meeting were the US, Australia, the Philippines, EU, Norway, Malaysia, Colombia, Pakistan, Chile, Viet Nam and Peru, some regretting that the judicial ruling did not take into account Costa Rica’s international obligations.

Costa Rica has been repeatedly questioned about the breaches since September 2010.

Thailand’s “paddy pledging” scheme, which combines loans with price guarantees, was also the subject of questions about a possible breach of domestic support limits, and the effect on international markets. In this meeting, Australia, the US, the Philippines and Pakistan asked questions or said they were interested in the issue. Thailand said that since the programme was only introduced in October 2011, it will notify the amounts when details become available.

Want more?

See:

  • Members’ compliance with notification obligations, G/AG/GEN/86/Rev.11 (10 September 2012, 17 pages)

 

Chairperson: Ms Emalene Marcus-Burnett (Barbados)

Next meetings

(Could be changed)

2012

14–15 November

2013

26 March 2013
4 September 2013
12 November 2013

 

 Jargon buster 

Place the cursor over a term to see its definition:

• Amber box

• Blue box

• de minimis

• Green box

• notification

• overall trade-distorting domestic support (OTDS)

• tariff quota

> More jargon: glossary

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