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
> 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
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.
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
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
(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.)
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.
Australia continued to urge members to keep their notifications up-to-date, this
time highlighting overdue notifications from Venezuela, China, Egypt, India,
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)
(Could be changed)
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
• 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
• tariff quota: when quantities inside a quota are
charged lower import duty rates, than those outside (which can
> More jargon:
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