Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Update Phase 2: special agricultural safeguards

Special agricultural safeguards

See also Phase 1. Among the proposed ideas are:

  • Retaining the present special safeguard and adding a new safeguard to deal with seasonal and perishable products. The proposal includes ideas for formulas. Critics say this would increase protectionism
  • A countervailing mechanism for developing countries to use on subsidized imports from developed countries. The right would be automatic without any need to prove any damage. Some critics say this would undermine countries’ legitimate right to subsidize exports, including within the minimal (“de minimis” ceilings), and that it could obstruct trade. They prefer reducing large subsidies.
  • Preserving the special safeguard. Some countries taking this view are also willing to extend the right to use the safeguards to countries that did not “tariffy” or previously reserve the right.
  • Allowing developing countries to use special safeguards for all products. A number of developing countries who take this view also advocate scrapping the special safeguard in developed countries.

Within these views are different shades of opinion. Some countries see the safeguards as permanently necessary measures. Others describe them as a confidence-building means of encouraging countries to lower tariffs.

Papers or “non-papers” from: Eight developing countries (Cuba, Dominican Rep, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe), five developing countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Philippines and Thailand), Japan, Namibia, Norway, and Switzerland.

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The second phase consists of detailed discussions on the many issues raised in the first phase, organized topic by topic. The meetings are largely “informal”, meaning that there is no official record except for chairperson’s summaries presented at the formal meetings. Papers presented so far have not been official WTO documents. Despite the increased complexity, developing countries continue to participate actively.