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WTO Agriculture Body Hears Trade Policy Qualms

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

26 June 2012

Government programmes supporting agriculture domestically in 40 World Trade Organization (WTO) member states came under the spotlight at the latest meeting of the WTO's Agriculture Committee - the body responsible for overseeing that countries are complying with their commitments regarding subsidies and market access under the Agriculture Agreement.

At the meeting, India defended its previous imposition of export restrictions on a range of products, stating that the restrictions had since been lifted, for example on cotton. The US said it was concerned about the disruption caused to markets and urged India to notify any future restrictions. India said WTO agreements do not require notification when exports of products such as cotton are restricted.

Indonesia confirmed at the meeting that it would postpone the introduction of new regulations that would restrict imports of livestock, livestock products and horticultural products. New Zealand, the US, Canada and Japan wanted more information or urged Indonesia to use the time to explain how the measures would comply with WTO commitments and agreements. Canada said that Indonesia, as a member of the G-20 group of leading economies, should observe the group’s commitment to avoid protectionism.

A number of questions were also about market access and export subsidies. South Korea announced that it had scrapped special safeguards that temporarily increased import duties on a group of products identified as “other worked grains”. The safeguard was triggered by an increase in imports in 2006 and 2007, under an agreed formula, even though there was almost no domestic production to defend against import surges.

On domestic support to the agricultural industry, most questions and comments at the meeting were about domestic support programmes in Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Norway, Paraguay and Saudi Arabia.

It was again raised at the meeting, that Costa Rica's domestic support for rice remains above its agreed limit of just under USD16m, at USD104m in 2011. In this meeting Costa Rica said that it cannot say when it will be able again to comply with its commitment. The US, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, Peru, Malaysia, Pakistan and Colombia voiced concern on the nation's inability to update nations on when it would bring state support within the bounds agreed. The nation has been repeatedly questioned about the breaches since September 2010.

Also raised at the meeting, Argentina noted research that demonstrates significant barriers to entry for exporters in less developed nations. It said more-advanced nations can gain market access by meeting standards, at the expense of less developed nations, which struggle to meet the cost of adapting their products.

TAGS: Morocco | Pakistan | tax | Chile | India | Paraguay | Saudi Arabia | World Trade Organisation (WTO) | Australia | China | Colombia | Norway | Philippines | food | agreements | Brazil | Canada | Costa Rica | Dominica | Dominican Republic | Indonesia | Malaysia | New Zealand | Peru | regulation | trade | Argentina | Japan

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