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.
Delegations generally welcomed the positive developments in the export competition pillar, in particular the significant decline in spending on export subsidies, but cited concerns on slippage by some members as well as gaps in the information supplied.
A number of delegations took the floor to say the reports demonstrated that the proposed outlines for a deal on export competition contained in the 2008 draft chairman's text on agriculture were doable, with some suggesting members should push for an outcome on the issue at the upcoming 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December.
The Secretariat report (G/AG/W/125/rev.2 and attachments) was submitted in line with the 2013 Bali Ministerial Declaration on Export Competition, which mandated annual, dedicated discussions to examine developments in the field of export competition in order to enhance transparency and improve monitoring on the issue. Export competition covers: export subsidies; export credits, export credit guarantees or insurance programmes; international food aid; and agricultural exporting state trading enterprises (STEs).
The Secretariat report is based on replies submitted by 34 WTO members and contains a number of tables and charts as well as additional information on the various issues under the export competition heading. The Cairns Group described its paper (G/AG/W/144) as a supplement to the Secretariat report containing the group's key conclusions drawn from the Secretariat analysis. (More details below).
The committee also undertook its more routine work of monitoring countries’ policies through questions and answers. Questions submitted to the 4 June meeting are contained in document G/AG/W/143. Many of the questions and comments concerned China's recent notification on domestic support covering the 2009-10 marketing years as well as its cotton policies. Other questions focused on Switzerland's proposal to increase export subsidy spending, India's export subsidies for sugar, and Turkey's policies related to domestic support, export subsidies and wheat flour sales. Turkey was also quizzed on its overdue domestic support notifications.
Costa Rica told the committee that farm reforms adopted earlier this year mean Costa Rica has now brought down spending on trade-distorting support below its WTO limits for the first time since 2007. Canada was questioned about the impact of its new free trade agreement with the European Union on Canada's allocation of tariff rate quotas for imported cheese.
(More details below; document G/AG/W/143 includes reference numbers for the questions and answers used in the Agriculture Information Management System (AG-IMS) database).
In introducing the Cairns Group report to the committee, New Zealand said the positive trend on export subsidies remains clear; there has been an overall decline in their use, bringing WTO members close to the final objective of the full elimination of export subsidies as set out in the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration and reaffirmed in the 2013 Bali Ministerial Declaration on Export Competition. With the exception of a few members, export subsidies have fallen to zero or, where this is not the case, the members in question have notified their intention to reduce their use. One new trend cited in this year's Cairns Group report is a review of trade agreements signed since 2008 by members that have recently used export subsidies; these members — even the biggest spenders - often constrain their use of export subsidies in the agreements beyond their current WTO commitments.
On export financing support, the situation is less clear with regards to the proposed commitments in the 2008 draft text. This is in part because most members did not provide information on whether their programmes are self-financing, New Zealand said, which is one of the conditions in the 2008 text. Most of the reported programmes have repayment terms that exceed the 180-day limit set out in the 2008 text; this includes the US Export Credit Guarantee Programme which, despite a decline compared to last year, finances the second greatest share of agricultural exports in the sample.
On international food aid, New Zealand said the picture was "excellent" and that the majority of the food aid provided was already consistent with the proposed disciplines in the 2008 draft text. On STEs, three developed and 16 developing countries reported having STEs with export monopoly powers. However, information provided was inadequate to evaluate their conformity with disciplines in the 2008 text.
In conclusion, New Zealand said the Cairns Group paper showed the proposed modalities for export competition were doable, particularly on export subsidies and food aid. While acknowledging the domestic reforms and commitments under trade agreements some members have taken, it is essential that the Doha negotiation objectives on export competition be met without delay, as reflected in the Bali Ministerial Declaration, New Zealand said.
Members welcomed the two papers, although some said there were information gaps which still needed to be plugged. Argentina, a Cairns Group member, said the introduction of new export subsidy programmes was inconsistent with the Bali Ministerial Declaration. Other Cairns Group members as well as several non-Cairns Group members (Egypt for the African Group, Nigeria, Pakistan, India) said the papers showed the elimination of export subsidies was feasible and could be achieved without delay, with a deal in this area being one of the possible deliverables from the Nairobi Ministerial Conference in December.
Other members expressed some reservations. The European Union said data on all other export competition measures was less comprehensive than that for export subsidies, and that export subsidy notifications date back 10-15 years for some members. Export subsidies granted by developing countries under Article 9:4 of the Agreement on Agriculture are missing from the Secretariat report, while on export financing the data is still inconclusive in terms of determining the trade distorting element to be disciplined. Data on some important state-controlled corporations operating public stocks is also missing.
Switzerland also cited incomplete information with regards to export financing and STEs. More information on international food aid would also be helpful. Switzerland said a proposal now before its parliament boosting spending on export subsidies by 20 million Swiss francs (US$ 21 million) was an exceptional measure and illustrated the political sensitivity of the issue.
Norway said its government proposed on 29 May to phase out all export subsidies by the end of 2019. The proposal will now go before the country's parliament.
Questions and answers
Chairperson: Mr Michael Wamai of Uganda
24 September 2015
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