WTO: 2016 NEWS ITEMS

AGRICULTURE: FORMAL MEETING


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:

The Committee’s review of agricultural export policies is part of the monitoring of how the Nairobi decision is being implemented. Members discussed WTO document G/AG/W/125/Rev.4 (and its four addenda), which compiles information provided by members on their export subsidies, export finance support, agriculture state trading enterprises and international food aid. A paper by the Cairns group (G/AG/W/153), which provided an analysis of the information, noted that the use of export subsidies had decreased dramatically over the past two decades.

“We are off to a very good start today,” said the Chair of the Committee, Garth Ehrhardt. He said that the exchanges provided a “sharper focus on specific measures, on implementation and compliance with the Nairobi ministerial decision on export competition”.  He congratulated members for asking interesting questions and for their detailed and numerous written responses.

The decision taken at the WTO’s Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December 2015 was to eliminate agricultural export subsidies — widely seen as an unfair trade practice that distorts trade and undermines food production in vulnerable countries — and to strengthen rules on other forms of export support. The Nairobi decision defines various timelines for the elimination of export subsidies. As a general rule, developed countries are required to remove these subsidies immediately, while developing countries will benefit from longer timeframes.

Members exchanged views on various issues related to the implementation of the Nairobi decision. Several of the 16 WTO members with schedules of commitments permitting them to subsidize their farm exports confirmed their intention to formally modify their schedules.

Questions and answers

The questions discussed at the meeting are listed in document G/AG/W/152, and can be accessed in the Agriculture Information Management System database.

Canada: Dairy policies

Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand and the United States raised concerns about Canada’s allocation of the cheese tariff rate quota — where in-quota imports are charged lower import duty rates, and imports outside the quota face higher duties. According to these countries, Canada has reallocated more than 800 tons of WTO cheese tariff quota to the European Union without consulting other affected members.

Canada’s new category for milk ingredients was questioned by Australia, New Zealand and the United States. These countries said the announced measure would allow subsidised skimmed milk to be used as an ingredient for cheese, which would make domestic milk proteins for cheese processing cheaper than imported milk proteins. Canada responded that the measure was to address potential imbalances in the market, and it considered the new category would not have a significant impact on the overall imports of milk proteins.

Russia: Restriction on transit of goods

Ukraine raised concerns that Russia’s restrictions on the transit of agricultural goods from Ukraine to Kazakhstan through Russia by truck and railway were effectively a ban on Ukraine’s goods. In addition, only two checkpoints on the Russian-Belarus border and three points on the Russian-Kazakhstan border could be used for the transit of such goods. The US, Canada, the EU, Turkey, Paraguay and Moldova registered their concerns and encouraged both states to resolve the issue.

Thailand: Export of rice from government stocks

Some WTO members questioned Thailand’s policy of exporting stockpiled rice. Thailand used to have a government programme to purchase rice from farmers at supported prices, leaving the country with a large inventory of rice in warehouses. Many countries were concerned about the potential impact on trade if the Thai government were to export these rice stocks to the global market. The EU, the US, Canada, Philippines, India and Nigeria registered their interest in this issue, and urged Thailand to provide more information on the amount of exports from government stocks.

Japan: Price adjustment for sugar and starch

The EU, Australia, New Zealand and the US sought clarification on a proposal by Japan to apply a special levy on sugar and starch. Japan responded that the amendment was applied to imported sugar preparations and followed the same rule as Japan’s current practices. It said that the adjustment would comply with WTO’s non-discrimination principles.

India: Crop insurance and export support

India’s crop insurance and export support were once again questioned by WTO members. India responded that more information on its new crop insurance scheme was available online, and that export subsidies in sugar as well as its export assistance programme had already been discontinued.

Turkey: Overdue notifications

A few WTO members again raised concerns that Turkey had not submitted any notification on domestic support and export subsidies since 2000. Many members asked questions about Turkey’s agriculture support policies and urged Turkey to provide up-to-date information. Turkey informed members that it would soon submit its export subsidies notification and was working on data for its domestic support measures.

Chairperson: Mr Garth Ehrhardt of Canada

Next meeting: 14 September 2016

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