Review of progress in the WTO agricultural talks
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CTA. 2003. Review of progress in the WTO agricultural talks. Agritrade, August 2003. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/52491
The WTO Committee on Agriculture formally met on July 1st 2003 to review...
The WTO Committee on Agriculture formally met on July 1st 2003 to review progress after the failure to meet the March 31st 2003 deadline. The review showed that members remained in their entrenched position, although the agreement on CAP reform gave some cause for hope. Many countries (the EU Switzerland, Norway, Japan and Barbados) insisted that a new draft of the modalities paper (concerning how issues are to be dealt with) was needed. Others, including Egypt, Zimbabwe and Uganda felt that the current draft on modalities was adequate. The proposed special safeguard measures, which would allow developing countries to block sudden surges in imports, were discussed, but no agreement could be reached. The concept of 'special products' was also reviewed. This concept would allow developing countries to introduce lower cuts than those normally to be applied. There was however disagreement as to how special products should be defined, with some WTO members favouring objective criteria (Latin American and the 'Cairns Group' countries) and others (Indonesia, China and India) favouring self definition by the developing country. Comment: The debate around special safeguard measures is particularly important for ACP countries, especially those in Africa, since ACP countries are an increasingly important market for exports of simple value-added food products from the EU. For many African countries development of facilities for the local production of such products constitutes the vital first stage of industrial development. Competitively priced EU exports, arising from the provision of high levels of direct aid to EU farmers therefore potentially threatens the development of these industries across a range of ACP countries. The debate around 'special products' is also an important area for ACP countries, given that many ACP countries are dependent on a single commodity for a large proportion of their export earnings. In some cases the functioning of the markets served are distorted by public aid programmes in OECD countries (e.g. cotton) in others the oligopolistic control of the market of the product can reduce the returns to ACP farmers (e.g. coffee), in still other areas changes to how public aid is provided (mainly through the shift from price support to direct aid payments) is increasing the price competitiveness of EU exports (e.g. cereals), with potentially damaging consequences for food security. Against this background, ACP countries will need to look for swift, simple and effective safeguard measures and special treatment, if their agricultural sectors are not to be undermined by the changing basis of public aid to farming in the EU and other OECD countries.