WTO: 2009 NEWS ITEMS

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

  

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> Explanation in “Understanding the WTO”

The committee also continued its work on improving the way members share information with each other through the WTO, including a range of ideas compiled from their replies to a questionnaire. Much of this would involve improved electronic communication, revamped website pages, data compiled by the Secretariat, sharing experiences, training and other means.

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

 

Notifications and review, and related questions

The questions members ask each other under the review of notifications is part of the committee’s key responsibility of overseeing how countries are complying with their commitments. They can also ask about agricultural measures that have not yet been notified or have not been notified at all.


The new EU beef quota

The European Union plans to introduce a new import quota for high quality beef under an agreement with the US for settling a dispute on the EU’s ban on imports of beef from cattle raised with hormones (see disputes DS26 and DS320; Canada has a related dispute, DS48 and DS321). The quota would be compensation for the EU’s failure to lift the ban, which has been found to violate WTO agreements.

Replying to questions from Australia, the EU said the new quota will be available equally to all WTO members. It rejected the suggestion that the import trade would be distorted because quantities within the new quota are duty-free whereas existing quotas, which are specific to individual supplying countries, have a 20 per cent duty. The only distortion would be within the EU’s domestic market, it said.

Australia and its supporters — Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, New Zealand, Paraguay and South Africa — said they would monitor how the new quota is implemented to ensure there is no discrimination. They appreciated the information the EU has shared with them in this meeting and in bilateral talks.


US and EU dairy export subsidies

Replying to concerns from China and New Zealand, the US said it was forced to re-introduce export subsidies on dairy products in May because other countries’ subsidies were depressing prices and making the US industry uncompetitive.

China said the US should get together with other countries to fight the subsidies instead of using them. In its complaint, it had described the US move as “very typical ‘beggar-my-neighbour’ behaviour”.

New Zealand also wanted to know when both US and EU subsidies would end. The EU, whose subsidies had been discussed in the previous meeting in March, said it could not say when they would end. It repeated that it remains within its commitment in the WTO.

Supporting the complaint were Australia, Argentina and Brazil.
 

Other questions

These included:

  • US COUNTER-CYCLICAL PAYMENTS (where support rises and falls as prices fall and rise): Brazil asked the US a follow-up question on support for cotton.

  • EU DOMESTIC SUPPORT. Canada and the US asked the EU to clarify some details in its notifications, some of these the result of changes in the methods used. Australia, Canada and the US wanted the EU to clarify programmes for “decoupled income support” (support that is not directly related to present production and prices) and how this ensures the programmes meet the criteria for them to be classified as in the “Green Box”, ie, to have no effect, or a minimal effect, on prices and production volumes.

  • CHINA AND EU QUOTAS. The EU has been negotiating modifying its tariffs and tariff quotas. It continued to defend its refusal to accept China as “a party with substantial interest” and therefore with negotiating rights in three poultry products on the grounds that there were no significant imports from China. The EU said it had scrupulously followed WTO procedures. China repeated that this was unreasonable because the EU restricted Chinese imports and therefore the actual volume did not reflect the potential.

  •  DATA. Argentina continued to question the EU about the calculations of total value of its agricultural production following expansion to 25 and 27 members.

And:

  • Argentina on the US Export Guarantee Programme

  • Argentina on the EU’s negotiations to adjust its commitments for its expansion to 27 members

  • The US on Thailand’s and Chinese Taipei’s tariff quotas for some products

  • Australia on Canada’s and Rep.Korea’s tariff quotas for some products

  • The US on Oman’s “Green Box” support

  • China on the US calculation of its domestic support for some products

  • Australia on details of Canada’s domestic support

  • Turkey on Australia’s export subsidies

  • Australia on Canada’s export subsidies

  • The US on Japan’s rice food aid

 

Overdue notifications

Australia and the US continued to urge members to keep their notifications up-to-date. Australia highlighted overdue notifications from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico, Turkey, Iceland, India and Rep.Korea. Iceland said it would submit its notifications by the end of the summer.

 

Strengthening notification

A work plan on improving notification and access to notified information is starting to take shape following a number of informal consultations and some members’ responses to a questionnaire. While delegations broadly supported the approach, they said they want to look at the details.

Among the ideas under discussion are: better use of electronic tools such as email, and the public and members-only websites; making the information more informative and more readily available; and various activities such as workshops and mentoring to strengthen governments’ ability to notify promptly.

More consultations are planned over the coming months, including a workshop when the committee meets again in September. The reforms could eventually become part of similar changes across all WTO subjects.

The discussion is partly in response to a request from the General Council chairperson to all committees for suggestions on how to reduce delays in notifications.

 

Chairperson: Ms Valéria Csukasi (Uruguay)

  

Next meetings

Tentatively:

  • 24 September

  • 19 and 20 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.

• 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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