The Commission's view on the missed agricultural talks deadline
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CTA. 2003. The Commission's view on the missed agricultural talks deadline. Agritrade, May 2003. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/52722
Addressing the 40th Anniversary Conference of Agra Europe on March 31st 2003,...
Addressing the 40th Anniversary Conference of Agra Europe on March 31st 2003, the Agricultural Commissioner Franz Fischler expressed a lack of concern over the failure to meet the March 31st deadline on agricultural modalities, emphasising instead the need to 'keep the process moving' so that an agreement can be reached in Cancun in September. He reiterated the principal objectives of the negotiations on agriculture which are to 'establish a fair and market-oriented trading system that corrects and prevents restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets. Commissioner Fischler expressed disappointment at the revised Harbinson draft, particularly with regard to: the absence of non-trade concerns; the absence of a 'peace clause'; the inadequate provision for disciplining certain types of export subsidy (export credits); the failure to tighten the de minimus loophole; the lack of balance in the treatment of developing countries, with the weaker and more vulnerable developing countries gaining little and facing the erosion of their preferential access. Commissioner Fischler claimed that the EU has progressively opened its markets to third-country exports in recent years and has continued to move away from the most trade-distorting forms of support. Comment: The cornerstone of the Commission's critique of the Harbinson proposal is securing acceptance of EU definitions of what constitutes trade distorting, less trade distorting and non-trade distorting forms of support . The Commission's aim is to secure universal acceptance of its definitions, thereby giving the EU maximum lee-way within which to pursue its chosen path for agricultural sector reform, while constraining the agricultural support policies of other OECD countries. The emphasis on ensuring balance in the treatment of developing countries by insulating vulnerable economies from preference erosion, appears to have as much to do with establishing a defence against Australian and Brazilian challenges to the EU sugar regime as the actual maintenance of trade preferences for preferred suppliers such as the ACP. This analysis is supported by the fact that at the present time the process of CAP reform itself is actually a greater threat to the erosion of the value of ACP trade preferences than the process of multilateral trade liberalisation. (Evidence for this can be seen in developments in both the beef sector, where EU prices for Southern African beef are down 28-30% compared to 1999, and impending developments in the rice sector, where EU market prices are set to fall by around 34% in the course of 2004. Both these developments will significantly erode the value of existing ACP trade preferences).