CET ARTICLE a pour objet d’aider le public à mieux comprendre les questions traitées à l’OMC. bien que tout ait été fait pour garantir l’exactitude des renseignements qui y figurent, l’article ne préjuge pas des dispositions des gouvernements membres.

Le résumé officiel des débats figure dans le compte rendu de la réunion.

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The paper from the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters compiled the latest data notified to the committee by the top 10 agricultural trading nations (in the case of the EU, a group of nations), as part of the committee’s role in monitoring how members implement policies under their WTO obligations.

However, some members see the data as an input into the negotiations, which are held in separate sessions. Different countries drew different analytical conclusions from the data, reflecting their different perspectives on what the negotiations should achieve.

Some focused on the “trade distortion” (when policies cause prices and production to be higher or lower than levels that would usually exist in a competitive market) caused by large overall quantities of support, including increases in major developing countries. Others argued that those figures overlook the difference between the large amounts paid per farm in commercial agriculture, and the considerably smaller amounts paid per head to poor farmers. (More details below).


Questions, answers and Bali

The committee, which consists of all 160 WTO members, also undertook its more routine work of monitoring countries’ policies through questions and answers.

Members questioned more generally included: Brazil, on its domestic support; Canada, on its policies for cheese and other dairy products; China, on domestic support for cotton; Costa Rica, on complying with its support limit for rice (see this news story); India, on its policies for cotton and sugar and its rice and cereals exports; Pakistan, on its wheat export subsidies; Russia on its agricultural support and grain exports, Thailand, on its sugar and rice policies; Turkey, on its wheat flour sales; the US, on its export guarantees; and at the last minute, Indonesia and Angola on measures that would restrict some imports.

Other questions were about the notifications members have to submit annually on their market access, domestic support and export subsidy policies. Here, as usual, the largest number of questions was about domestic support, an area that is particularly complex. The countries most queried were India — 10 questions taking up about 5 pages of document G/AG/W/139 (pdf), following up from the last meeting in November — and the US —10 questions taking up about 2 pages.

(More details below; document G/AG/W/139 includes reference numbers for the questions and answers used in the Agriculture Information Management System (AG-IMS) database).

The committee also briefly continued its monitoring and other follow-up work on other decisions agreed at the WTO Bali Ministerial Conference, with a reminder by the chairperson on the recommended use of an additional column on quota fill rates in tariff quota notifications (under “tariff quota administration”), and information on preparations for the next discussion in June 2015 on export subsidies and other policies grouped under the heading “export competition”.


Some details


Domestic support data

The Cairns Group paper — G/AG/W/141 (pdf), with data in this Excel file — looks at domestic support as notified to the WTO by the top 10 agricultural traders: the US, EU, China, Brazil, Canada, Japan, India, Russia, Indonesia and Australia. One group member, Argentina, did not support the paper, and two others — Indonesia and the Philippines — said they were still consulting officials in their capitals on their response.

The paper concludes that in absolute terms, the total support of all 10 increased between 2001 and 2012, growing more rapidly in the four developing countries (China, Brazil, India and Indonesia) where the starting base was much lower. When compared to the value of production, support in developed countries was stable while in developing countries the proportion increased, although at the end of the period developed countries’ support was still proportionately higher, at, on average, 19.3% of the value of production, whereas in these developing countries it was on average 12.4%.

The most distorting type of domestic support (“Amber Box” also known as “aggregate measurement of support” or AMS) has declined in most of the developed countries, sometimes very significantly to levels well below the legally agreed limits, the paper says. Among developing countries, only Brazil’s Amber Box support remained low. In India and China it has increased steadily, the paper says, but stayed below the “de minimis” level, a conceptually small amount of support: allowed up to 10% of the value of production for most developing countries, but 8.5% for China.

Three of the developing countries included in the paper are eligible to provide input and investment subsidies (under Article 6.2 of the Agriculture agreement) — Brazil, India and Indonesia. The paper says the three increasingly favour this type of support, which has at least tripled in all three cases and increased as a proportion of the value of production.

“Blue Box” support (similar to Amber Box but with production constraints to reduce trade distortion) has declined sharply in the EU, while in Japan it started to decline before rebounding, the paper says.

Finally, in most (but not all) developed countries, reductions in distorting Amber Box support have been accompanied by significant increases in minimally distorting Green Box support, reaching on average 14.2% of the value of production in the last year reported. The four developing countries also increased Green Box support, which rose on average to 7% of the value of production, the paper concluded.

Reactions: distortion, commerce v. livelihoods and out-of-date data

Argentina, Indonesia, the Philippines, Bolivia, India, China and Brazil said the paper was unbalanced because it played down the differences in the scale of support, which remains much higher in developed countries. India and China said support in developed countries is for large scale commercial farming while in their countries it is for millions of poor farmers.

India recalculated the compiled numbers to show that support figures per person produce a different picture. These range from hundreds of dollars per person per year in the developing countries, to thousands or tens of thousands each in the developed nations.

The US presented some graphs showing the different trends over the years in the 10 countries, with increases in distorting subsidies in the developing members. Brazil commented that the US should have presented the graphs to the same scale in order to show the difference between amounts of support given by richer and poorer countries.

Paraguay, Mexico and Uruguay said the amount of trade-distortion created is a concern, no matter where that distortion comes from. Australia said India’s per capita figures were interesting but added that it remains concerned about the impact of support in India, which overtook Australia as the seventh largest exporter of agricultural products.

The EU said the data reflect the reforms it has undertaken to move support out of the distorting Amber Box to the minimally distorting Green Box. Argentina, however, argued that the scale of Green Box subsidies in developed countries is so large that it is causing distortion.

The EU and New Zealand said some notifications are not up-to-date and that keeping up-to-date is necessary for transparency. Canada, which presented the paper, and New Zealand, responded to comments on the paper by saying it is designed to allow countries to draw their own conclusions from the data.

Questions and answers

One of the key responsibilities of the “regular” Agriculture Committee, which consists of all 160 WTO members (and does not deal with the current agriculture negotiations), is to see how countries are complying with their commitments on subsidies and market access and to discuss issues that arise.

It monitors whether members are keeping the promises they have made in the WTO. Out of the XXXX sets of questions in this meeting — document G/AG/W/139 (pdf) — 18 arose from information available elsewhere that has not yet been notified, and 19 were about some of the 44 notifications on their programmes that members submitted since the last meeting in November (three on tariff rate quotas, 10 on domestic support and four on export subsidies).

Questions and answers from all meetings are compiled in the Agriculture Information Management System database. Code numbers in the document G/AG/W/139 in the form “AG-IMS ID XXXXX” can be used to identify the questions and answers (for questions in this meeting, use meeting number 76).

These are some of the questions and answers that aroused the most interest from members:

Costa Rica’s domestic support for rice

(AG-IMS ID 76052) Costa Rica said a new decree has been issued that will eliminate the price support scheme that has caused it to exceed its domestic support limit for rice for several years. The programme is being replaced with a new scheme, it said.

New Zealand, Canada, Pakistan and the US repeated their concern about the breach and their appreciation for Costa Rica being transparent in this issue. They said they would monitor how the new policy is implemented.

The breach of up to six times Costa Rica’s limit was first discussed in the committee in 2009. Costa Rica announced in June 2013 that the price support for rice that had caused it to exceed its limit by up to six times would be replaced in March 2014, but in January 2014 Costa Rica said it would have to delay this until March 2015, because the rice sector needs more time to adjust.

India’s export subsidies for sugar, Domestic support for rice and wheat

(AG-IMS ID 76016, 76050 and 760259) Once again, India said no payments had been made so far under a programme that is designed to encourage sugar producers to diversify from refined sugar into raw sugar. Paraguay and Australia asked why, if there had been no payments, the policy is needed. The EU asked whether India’s reply meant payments could be made in the future: India said it was only providing the facts.

Australia said it was very concerned because India is one of the world’s largest sugar exporters and the subsidies could have an impact on world markets. Also expressing concern were Thailand and Colombia, the latter referring again to members’ agreement at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference to reduce and eventually eliminate these types of subsidies.

(AG-IMS ID 76018–9, 76066–72, 76035) India also replied to further questions on its domestic support notification, which was first discussed in the last meeting, including about the impact of the programme, and the basis for using US dollars in the notification.

Australia, the EU, the US, New Zealand and Paraguay said they continue to be concerned about the possible impact on domestic and world markets when large amounts of produce are accumulated in stocks. The EU and Paraguay sought data to relate the numbers of resource-poor farmers and the percentage of land they cultivate, to increases in production.

Thailand’s credit for rice

(AG-IMS ID 76021 and 76058) Thailand replied to further questions from Australia and the US about its “paddy pledging” scheme, in which paddy (unmilled rice) is used as collateral for subsidized loans, saying the figures on the scheme are still being compiled and are also subject to legal proceedings in Thailand. They will be notified when they are available, Thailand said.

The delegation repeated that the scheme has now been scrapped. Expressing concern or interest in the issue were Pakistan, the Philippines and India. The Philippines said that even if the rice stocked under the scheme was sold at market prices, since it had been obtained at above market prices, this would have an impact on world markets because Thailand is a major exporter.

This issue has been discussed in the committee for several years.

Switzerland’s export subsidies

(AG-IMS ID 76002) The EU, New Zealand and Argentina asked for information or expressed concern about Switzerland’s export subsidies, the latter two referring again to members’ agreement at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference to reduce and eventually eliminate them. Switzerland said it had eliminated export subsidies on basic products, and reduced subsidies on processed products although its Parliament is considering a temporary increase for one year to help producers suffering after the central bank recently abolished the cap on the Swiss franc’s exchange rate and its subsequent rise in value.

Import restrictions: Indonesia and Angola

Two late questions reflected the concerns of Australia and the EU about import measures in Indonesia (for beef, AG-IMS ID 76075) and Angola (for a range of products, AG-IMS ID 76076), and the possibility that these measures would restrict trade in a way that would violate WTO obligations. Indonesia said its measures were a reaction to an anomaly in the domestic market, with details to be supplied later; Angola said it would also explain its policies later.

Want more?
  • Members’ compliance with notification obligations, latest version, G/AG/GEN/86/Rev.20 (pdf) — Over a third of domestic support notifications are overdue (736 or 38% of the total expected) and a similar figure for export subsidies (802 or 36%). Once again, China was asked when it would supply up-to-date notifications on its domestic support (the latest year covered so far is 2008). China said that it will do so for 2009-10 in the next two weeks and that further notifications will follow.

Chairperson: Ms Miriam Beatriz Chaves of Argentina

Next meetings

(Could be changed, with possible informal meetings before)

  • 4–5 June 2015
  • 24 September 2015
  • 19 November 2015

On the website

Agriculture Information Management System database

Comprendre le jargon 

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• catégorie orange

• catégorie bleue

• distorsion

• catégorie verte

• contingent tarifaire

• de minimis

• notification

• soutien interne global ayant des effets de distorsion des échanges (SGEDE)

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