Roberts, Troy Podbury And Richard Perry
Bureau Of Agricultural Resource Economics
WTO meeting late last year initiated a broad round of negotiations that
should increase the chances of more negotiations than previously and issues
of importance to them are likely to be given.
November 2001, trade ministers from WTO member countries met in Doha in
Qatar, and agreed to launch a new multilateral trade round. This could set
the stage for advances in WTO negotiations for agricultural reforms that have
been proceeding in isolation for two years and have yet to make much
round could breathe new life into the agricultural negotiations for two main
covers a broad range of products and issues, providing opportunities for
tradeoffs. Potential negotiated gains in other sectors could encourage some
countries to accept trade liberalising agricultural reforms.
was agreed that all the negotiations be treated as ‘a single undertaking’,
which means all areas of negotiations must be agreed to for any of the
negotiated outcomes to be binding. This can place pressure on negotiators
in areas like agriculture, where agreement is difficult, to find common
grounds in the interest of reaching an overall agreement.
though the agreement to launch a wider round is positive for the negotiations
on agriculture, it is far from clear that the demand for agricultural trade
policy reforms is currently strong enough to result in more than minor
reforms from the negotiations. Indeed, some key participants appear more
concerned to maintain the status quo or even to secure additional options to
support their farmers or protect them from import competition.
been a concerted effort by some countries, including the European Union and
Japan, to inject a raft of ‘new’ issues into the negotiations that could
be used as a basis for blocking imports or for providing exempt subsidies.
These issues include environmental concerns, animal welfare, viability of
rural communities, food security, and geographic indications. Already, the
European Union can claim some success by having a provision inserted into the
Doha declaration under which the relationship between existing WTO rules and
specific trade obligations set out in multilateral environmental agreements
should be included.
issues have a potential to divert the negotiations away from their
traditional main ‘three pillar’ focus on reducing barriers to imports,
reducing market distorting domestic support and reducing export subsidies,
while at the same time providing opportunities to extend protection.
countries will almost certainly play a much larger role in the present WTO
agricultural negotiations than in the previous round. They constitute most of
a rapidly increasing number of member countries, with some of the new
entrants, such as China, being very large economies. Consequently, the
dynamics of negotiations that were previously dominated by the United States,
the European Union and Japan are rapidly changing.
issues that are likely to influence the current WTO negotiations are
addressed here. These include the positions being taken by major
participants, the interface between the traditional ‘three pillars’
approach to trade liberalisation and reform and the ‘new’ issues
mentioned above, and the issues of importance to developing countries.
Positions being taken in
negotiations so far
a general appreciation by the members of the WTO that more open markets that
are less distorted by national subsidies are important for sustaining and
enhancing national and global economic growth and higher living standards.
However, there is a strong propensity for many participants to regard
agriculture as a special case that warrants exceptions from general trade
negotiations on agriculture so far have been characterised by strong
positions being taken by major participants, many of them being incompatible
with more open, less distorting policies.
taken by some of the main countries and groups may be summarised as follows.
United States is anxious to open markets for its exports, of which one
element is to address what it perceives to be ‘unfair’ competition from
others’ statutory export marketing bodies. At the same time, it has been
markedly increasing subsidies to its own producers and wishes to maintain and
even extend the scope for exempting some major forms of domestic subsidies
from cuts or limitations. The United States is advocating elimination of
export subsidies but is itself a major user of export subsidy-like measures
that are not constrained by present WTO rules. These include concessional
export credits and use of some international food aid in market distorting
ways. The United States opposes substantive reforms of these latter measures.
European Union is pursuing a defensive strategy to maintain the exemptions
that are in the present WTO Agreement on Agriculture that now form a
cornerstone for support arrangements for some of its own major industries.
The European Union is averse to eliminating export subsidies, of which it is
the world’s largest user. It also seeks to incorporate a number of
concerns, including environmental considerations, animal welfare and health,
and food safety, more fully into WTO trade rules. These issues have been
categorised by some under the term ‘multifunctionality of agriculture’
under which they emphasise the positive side effects of agricultural activity
but discount the negative side effects, to justify continued agricultural
support and protection.
also pursuing a defensive strategy with an emphasis on food security, which
it chooses to identify with targeting specified self sufficiency rates. It
has become a strong advocate of the concept of multi-functionality.
countries are taking relatively disparate positions depending on their
particular circumstances, but there is a strong common thread that they
should be accorded special treatment because of their development needs and
difficulties that they face with adjustment.
they want the developed countries to open their markets more for products
from developing countries. In addition, they want exemptions from cuts to
domestic subsidies and export subsidies, or less stringent rules governing
the use of such subsidies than apply for developed countries. Some are
calling for a special ‘development box’ and, at the extreme, are
proposing that they should be permitted to have unlimited use of all the
import restricting measures and trade distorting subsidies that they wish to
be removed by developed countries.
Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries is advocating far more open
markets, tighter rules limiting domestic support and elimination of export
there are wide differences among the parties, with the only group that is
pushing strongly and unequivocally for both more open markets and lower
subsidies being the Cairns Group. Nevertheless there are areas of common
ground that provide prospects for reforms.
What is required for
success in negotiations?
success of WTO negotiations hinges on how much they enable both exporting and
importing countries to obtain benefits from trade and from producing the
goods and services in which they have a comparative advantage. These benefits
arise simply from making markets as large and accessible as possible, and
from enabling producers to maximise their profits by responding to market
signals rather than to subsidies and other trade distorting government
these subsidies and other interventions are designed to ensure that producers
are as unaffected by market forces as possible. Not only are such measures
costly for the economies of the nations that apply them, but they also force
greater adjustment pressures on producers elsewhere. For the world as a
whole, they result in overproduction in areas where governments provide
protection and support and underproduction in areas where undistorted
production costs are lower — this reduces world incomes.
WTO Agreement on Agriculture that emerged from the Uruguay Round of
multilateral trade negotiations, a comprehensive approach was adopted to
address this problem, involving separate measures to expand market access,
reduce market distorting domestic support and reduce export subsidies and
of the agreement has shown it to be a mixed bag. Export subsidies have been
markedly reduced and limited gains have been made with market access. The
domestic support rules were the weakest and the result has been a wholesale
reorientation of assistance into forms of domestic support that were exempted
from any reductions or limitations. It is no coincidence that the United
States and the European Union have been the main countries to reorient their
support in this way — they were the two members who agreed on these
exemptions in the Blair House Accord, the provisions of which were later
written into the WTO Agreement on Agriculture (Orden,
Paarlberg and Roe 1999).
is required to secure appreciable gains from agricultural reforms this time
around? The answer is clear. Market access reforms must expand actual trade
markedly more, and not merely result in notional ‘reductions’ in trade
barriers. Furthermore, the avenues for shuffling domestic support between
forms of assistance to avoid agreed cuts must be curtailed.
(agreed maximum) tariffs must be reduced sufficiently to ensure that actual
applied tariffs are reduced markedly.
present access is limited by tariff quotas and reductions in bound tariffs
will not appreciably expand imports, the import limiting factors must be
addressed. Where the limitation is from within-quota tariffs, they must be
reduced; where it is restrictive administrative arrangements, they must be
reformed; where it is quota volume limitations, the volumes must be
safeguards that enable countries to temporarily increase tariffs must be
restricted so that, if they apply at all, they should only apply when
domestic industries are actually threatened by very abnormal levels of
approach to special safeguards should be to tighten their application in
members currently with access to them, rather than to extend them to more
members. In most cases, the present general safeguard arrangements and
antidumping and countervailing remedies should be sufficient to address major
increases in cheap imports.
a first step, currently agreed levels of permitted subsidised exports must be
reduced to below actual current subsidised exports — otherwise the
potential exists for a reversion to higher levels of this very market
distorting form of support. This alone will necessitate large cuts to present
is an urgent need to overhaul the rules for the highly permissive
exemptions for various forms of domestic subsidies — in particular,
so-called decoupled support and production limiting arrangements. Both the
United States and the European Union have reoriented support for key
agricultural industries into these categories, involving billions of
dollars of subsidies, thereby exempting them from reductions, limits or
foreshadowed for the 2002 US farm bill in area and yield bases for wheat,
feed grains, rice and cotton compromise the decoupled status of this support
that is required to be determined from fixed bases. The proposed changes
enable farmers to update their bases, giving them a signal that they can
obtain increased future benefits by planting and producing more and then
exerting political pressure to further update payment bases. This means that
production becomes linked to anticipated support, breaking a fundamental
tenet of decoupling that support and production should be independent.
support under production limiting arrangements for cereals and oilseeds
remains market distorting (Nelson and
Andrews 2001), although less so than the pre-1992 price support
that it replaced (Roberts et al.
1999). Payments for cattle and sheep that are exempt under
production limiting arrangements remain highly market distorting.
weaknesses in the current way of determining the Aggregate Measurement of
Support (AMS) need to be addressed. They have enabled members to ‘achieve’
large cuts in domestic support by retaining their support levels but
claiming that they no longer apply administered support prices. In 1998,
Japan did this for rice, reducing its AMS for agriculture from 3171 billion
yen to 766 billion yen (WTO 2000b,
2001a). Such a change is possible because the AMS is determined
from administered support prices and not actual supported prices.
Nontrade concerns – how
do they fit in?
years, a range of issues related to agriculture that are considered to be
important and that may be influenced by trade have been of concern to people
in many countries. These issues are sometimes termed ‘nontrade’ concerns.
They include concern about the environment, animal welfare, viability of
rural societies and food security. Environmental payments that are deemed to
be minimally market distorting are incorporated as exemptions in the present
WTO Agreement on Agriculture. However, the various other non-trade concerns
are not considered, apart from in Article 20 where it is indicated that
non-trade concerns should be taken into account in the continuing reform
process. Some countries are calling for these issues to be given more
prominence in current WTO negotiations.
increased focus in WTO negotiations on these concerns could reduce the
prominence of core trade issues — market access, domestic support and
export measures. A prime objective of members that wish to elevate non-trade
concerns in WTO negotiations is to ensure that the multifunctional nature of
agriculture is maintained. The proponents of this concept argue that the
multifunctional nature of agriculture can only be guaranteed through the
continued use of production and trade distorting support because these
non-trade values are jointly provided with agricultural output. As such, they
are attempting to slow or reverse agricultural liberalisation, and this
concept represents a significant risk to the reform agenda.
of multi-functionality emphasise the positive side effects of agriculture and
ignore the negative side effects. They point out such things as agriculture’s
role in reducing environmental damage through water runoff, its contribution
to regional employment, valued landscapes and even its role in providing a
habitat for wildlife. Some also include food security within the concept.
Based on these claimed benefits, the proponents argue that it is justifiable
to subsidise agriculture.
by ignoring the negative impacts of agriculture and failing to consider less
costly alternative means of achieving the stated multifunctional objectives,
it is clear that the proponents of this concept are attempting to harness
legitimate public concerns to try to justify protection for farmers. Such
protection is at a cost to domestic economies, to producers in other
countries and to the global economy.
example of non-trade concerns being used to justify industry support is
proposed exemption of payments to compensate EU producers for the costs of
meeting animal welfare standards from WTO limits or reductions (WTO
2000a). It may be claimed that such payments are required because
of widespread public support for high animal welfare standards. It would
appear, however, that if their public really demanded that particular
standards of animal welfare should be adhered to by farmers, they would be
prepared to pay higher prices for commodities that met their desired
standards. Consumer demand would encourage identification of products that
met particular requirements, through labeling or other forms of commercially
for the product produced in ways preferred by consumers would efficiently
determine the desired degree of production adjustments to meet the actual
degree of community concern as expressed through its willingness to pay.
Although provision of subsidies as incentives to use particular production
methods may improve animal welfare to meet government imposed standards, this
approach would be less efficient than a market based system at matching those
standards with community concerns.
proponents of multifunctionality succeed in raising nontrade concerns to the
same plane of importance as market access and subsidy issues on the WTO
agricultural reform agenda, it could seriously undermine the gains from more
open markets and less distorted trade.
Other WTO issues that may
affect agricultural trade
meeting launched a round of negotiations across a broad range of issues. Some
issues that are specified for action, but that are outside the agricultural
negotiations, have the potential to affect agricultural trade. It is
therefore important to analyse issues that indirectly affect agricultural
trade in addition to those that are directly covered in the agricultural
negotiations. Two of the issues for which negotiations or consultation were
agreed include the overlap between multilateral environment agreements and
WTO rules and ‘geographic indications’.
countries insisting on incorporation of these other issues are those that
already have substantial barriers against agricultural imports and that
provide a great deal of support to their farmers. It is possible that they
may use these issues in ways that have little effect on trade. However, there
is a risk that some may use their particular interpretations of these other
issues to further buttress their fortresses of agricultural protection.
Important consequential considerations for trade protection include the
following key areas.
the inconsistencies between multilateral environmental agreements and WTO
trade rules have not been substantial, and such a situation may continue.
However, it is also possible that extreme positions might be taken by some
countries in interpreting agreements in ways that could prejudice trade.
Negotiators need to be aware of this risk, and manage the process in such a
way as to minimise such potential negative outcomes.
example of a Multilateral Environmental Agreement that might be used to give
importing countries political discretion to block imports without scientific
justification, and which has a potential to influence trade is the Cartagena
Biosafety Protocol. Scientific justification has an established place in the
WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement. That agreement allows members to
restrict imports to protect human health and animal and plant health and
safety, but it obliges them to demonstrate that such restrictions are based
Cartagena Protocol requires exporters to seek consent from importers before
the first shipment of living modified organisms that are meant to be
introduced into the environment (Environmental
Issues 2001). Under such conditions some countries might take the
position that they can withhold consent even in the absence of scientific
proof that the products are harmful (Oxley
potential use of links between modified organisms and any risks that they
might pose for the environment raise issues of the degree of risk that is
acceptable to communities and the need to establish the actual degree of
those risks when making rational choices. Under what has come to be called
the ‘precautionary principle’, that was adopted in the Rio Declaration
from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,
particular measures might be adopted to prevent environmental degradation
even where there was a lack of full scientific certainty. While this
principle had been considered in relation to environmental risks, the EU
Commission extended it to deal more generally with risk to include the
environment, human, animal and plant health, in 2000 (Moschini
observed that ‘the precautionary principle should be interpreted as a tool
for risk management, the policy stage of choosing the optimal risk exposure.
Its basic tenet is that, when some uncertainty exists about the outcomes of
an action, this uncertainty must be factored into the choice problem’.
though this principle is capable of being applied in this apparently
unexceptionable way, some countries may be capable of applying it in an
extreme form in order to restrict trade in products, if the imported products
cannot be unequivocally proven to be free of harmful characteristics. A
requirement to prove products safe beyond any doubt would be of great concern
as it is impossible to prove scientifically that virtually any product,
including most that are regular components of current diets, do not have any
harmful characteristics to anyone.
whose governments wish to block imports to protect their own industries would
even have an incentive not to pursue scientific proof of the safety status of
potential imports if the precautionary principle were adopted in this extreme
way. In the European Union, which advocates application of this principle,
problems to date from food contamination and threats to public health have
arisen much more from domestic contaminants than from those generated
extreme application of the precautionary principle would be of major concern
for trade in agricultural products, the ‘principle’ really only
represents an approach to risk management.
controls on processes used in production
area where the overlap between environmental agreements and WTO agreements
could be at risk of being misused to restrict trade is environmentally based
controls on production processes. Environmental groups are keen to
incorporate into a multilateral environment agreement, other than in the WTO,
rules that would allow the United States to reimpose restrictions on imports
of shrimp, based on how they are caught (Crousse
the US imposed restrictions on imports of shrimp (prawns) from countries that
did not adopt a certain type of turtle excluding device in nets. That
restriction was successfully challenged in the WTO as the United States did
not allow imports from countries using other devices that were as effective.
Even fisheries that do not have turtle populations were required either to
use the devices or to undergo a lengthy certification process to establish
that they were a turtle free zone.
found that the restriction was not just attempting to achieve an
environmental outcome, but it was ‘process protection’, placing trade
barriers on imports because the products are produced in particular ways.
Environmental groups have cited this ruling in particular as evidence that
the WTO places business interests above environmental interests.
United States has since altered the approach,
allowing for variations in methods to be used, but trade bans have
still resulted. A subsequent WTO panel was initiated by Malaysia because the
United States was still imposing trade bans unilaterally even though it had
not concluded an international agreement for the protection of turtles that
included Malaysia. The panel found that using trade bans is inferior to
establishing an environmental agreement. However, given that the United
States was negotiating environmental agreements on this issue in good faith,
the bans were, for the time, acceptable. Malaysia did not challenge whether
the new US approach resulted in unfair or arbitrary discrimination against
supplying countries, and this latest panel therefore made no judgment on the
legitimacy of process protection (WTO
highlights the possibility that restrictions on trade through process based
environmental protection might become legitimised through the review of WTO
rules in the light of consistency with multilateral environmental agreements.
The risk is that unjustified or arbitrary trade discrimination may be
allowed, even if it is not a very effective means of achieving the desired
it was agreed that the WTO should undertake talks on the possibility of
extending protection for ‘geographic indications’ beyond wine. Geographic
indications are terms that associate particular products or processes with
particular regions, such as cheddar cheese, champagne, and Kentucky bourbon.
The concept is considered by some to be a form of intellectual property that
should restrict production of products with that name, to the specified
regions. The European Union was the main instigator, but a number of
developing countries have also indicated support for such arrangements.
indications are based on the concept that production within a particular
region, or use of a process associated with a region, is linked to a
perception of quality. Currently, there are several bilateral arrangements
requiring signatories to protect prescribed lists of the geographic
indications of other countries’ wine. Through those arrangements, names
such as Port, Champagne and Rhine have been reserved for use only by
producers located in the relevant regions of Europe. Australian regions
including the Barossa and Hunter valleys are similarly reserved.
such arrangements may seem attractive to countries that produce a product
generally considered to be superior, such as Thai silk, Egyptian cotton or
Cuban cigars, there is a substantial downside to the extension of such
arrangements. The wine agreements require signatories to establish systems to
ensure the protection of all geographic indications of other signatories.
If such a
system were extended beyond wine, the administrative burden of compliance
would be substantial. In addition, the use of names based on particular
regions has become so entrenched in differentiating categories of some
products that reserving those names to the original place of manufacture
alone would require the development of new names for similar, or even
indistinguishable, products produced elsewhere. A result would be substantial
disruption, confusion and cost to consumers as well as producers throughout
much of the world. Cheese provides a good example, where most types,
including cheddar, edam, mozzarella, brie and camembert are named after
European places, whereas the names are actually being used to indicate a
style of product that may be produced in many different locations.
be evident from the above that these other issues could be of serious concern
to people, whether they live in importing or exporting countries. Governments
in countries with protective policies could specify unreasonable or
unsubstantiated characteristics to lock out imports. It is also possible to
establish such costly administrative arrangements for entry of particular
products that the benefits from trade can be eroded or even eliminated.
concepts that are embedded in WTO rules should be very important in limiting
abuse. One is equivalence and the other is national treatment. The idea
behind equivalence is an acknowledgment that the same objectives for food
safety, the environment etc can be attained by different measures in
different countries or areas because the situations, environment and degrees
of risk differ between countries and areas.
treatment is a fundamental element of the WTO/GATT system — it requires
that goods or services that are imported should be accorded no less favorable
treatment than like products of national origin (paragraph 4, Article III of
the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, WTO
1995). These principles along with the focus on scientific
justification, as is applied for barriers under the present agreement
covering quarantine restrictions, should provide sound guidelines for many of
the non-trade measures.
fundamental objectives in WTO reforms are to make markets more open and less
distorted in order to obtain the benefits from more liberal trade. This must
remain the central focus in WTO agreements. If, however, precepts in other
international agreements such as environmental agreements are at variance
with those currently within the WTO and these are given credence in WTO
agreements, the damage that they could do to trade and the associated
economic gains could be substantial.
these other issues have been given a place in WTO deliberations under the
Doha declaration, it is important that they should not be used as means of
restricting rather than advancing trade. It is also important that wrangling
over the many abstract questions arising from a raft of largely undefinable
issues that are only indirectly related to trade, should not be used as a
stalling tactic to prevent or delay agreement on agricultural reforms. They
should not divert members from the main game in the negotiations, namely
reducing barriers to trade and trade distorting subsidies.
Developing country issues
countries have become increasingly important players in WTO negotiations in
recent years, and there is widespread recognition within the WTO membership
that issues of particular interest to these countries need to be reflected in
WTO agreements, including those on agriculture. The heightened awareness of
these interests reflects not only the rapidly expanding developing country
membership but also increasing awareness of developing country issues by
governments of developed countries and advocacy of those issues by
non-government organisations (NGOs).
accounts for a far greater proportion of the economy and of employment in
developing countries than in developed countries — there are, however, some
exceptions, such as oil rich arid countries. Because of this greater
orientation toward agriculture, these countries as a group stand to gain
significantly from agricultural trade liberalising reforms. Nevertheless, the
effects will differ between individual countries within this disparate group
because of differences between the situation of agriculture in their
economies and in the agricultural products that they produce.
these countries can observe that the large northern hemisphere developed
countries — the United States, the European Union and Japan — have been
reluctant to make more than cosmetic reforms to their agricultural policies.
Despite the Uruguay Round, support in these countries in recent years has
differed little from peak levels in the mid-1980s (OECD
2001 and previous). Other developed countries like Australia and
New Zealand, that depend heavily on agricultural trade, need to ally
themselves with developing country interests if they are to exert sufficient
pressure to advance trade liberalising reform for agriculture through the WTO.
This alliance of Australia and New Zealand, and also Canada with developing
country interests is most obvious with the Cairns group of agricultural
it is in Australia’s and like minded countries’ interests to seek common
grounds with developing countries to exert pressure on developed countries to
open their markets and reduce their subsidies, such an approach cannot be at
the cost of accepting protectionist policies by developing countries
themselves, if the goal is to maximise global welfare from trade.
It is now
widely accepted within the WTO that particular characteristics of developing
countries justify ‘special and differential’ treatment for them in
agricultural agreements. Some of those characteristics include greater
potential difficulties in industry adjustment because of a lack of strong
social security systems and difficulties in fostering regional food security
because of inadequate infrastructure and transport facilities. To date,
special and differential treatment has been mainly through lesser agreed cuts
for various forms of support and wider exemptions for agricultural subsidies
by developing countries than applies for developed countries.
there are some developing countries that see the WTO reform process largely
in terms of forcing developed countries to open their markets and at the same
time allowing developing countries the ‘right’ to protect their own
farmers and not reform their own policies. Such an approach would generally
be detrimental to their own economies as well as contrary to objectives being
pursued through the WTO.
years, much of the considerable growth in trade by developing countries has
been with other developing countries. If many developing countries were to
pursue protective policies for their own agricultural sectors, one
consequence would be reduced market opportunities and lower incomes for other
developing countries. Also, in a negotiating context, one group of countries
seeking legitimisation of protectionist policies for themselves, would play
into the hands of developed countries that wanted to maintain their own
reforms through the WTO to open markets and make them less distorted are
important for developing as well as developed countries. However, in many
developing countries a large part of the gains from trade reform will only be
realised if there are also substantial domestic reforms. Such reforms require
that key factors that have impeded economic growth in those countries be
addressed. Some such factors include ill defined or insecure property rights
and legal institutions that do not enable low cost transfers of goods and
services, or promote production, trade and investment. Other limiting factors
include low levels of literacy and numeracy and underdeveloped logistical
these limitations will not only increase benefits from trade liberalisation,
but should assist with income growth and sustainable economic development
whether or not trade liberalisation is successful. Importantly, these factors
can be pursued by developing countries independently of progress in the WTO.
developed countries can have a substantial positive impact on the long term
sustainable economic growth of developing nations through assistance with the
necessary reforms as well as by opening their own markets. They can
contribute by targeted development assistance to improve infrastructure,
health and education. In addition, technical assistance such as specialised
training, or outposting of experienced technical staff can help developing
countries establish or improve the legal and social institutions that affect
trade and economic activity.
countries have been providing some such assistance. However, a substantial
part of the assistance provided by large developed countries has been through
providing selective assistance to chosen developing countries via
preferential trading arrangements. Such arrangements are inherently
discriminatory in favor of the chosen group, diverting export opportunities
away from countries that do not receive the preferences, many of which are
also developing countries. They are demonstrably inefficient, effectively
extending high domestic support in the preference giving countries to the
preference recipients. They foster continued dependence of the recipients on
assistance, and discourage innovation and a broadening of the economic bases
in recipient countries (Topp 2001).
of these preferences to recipients relies heavily on the gaps between high
internal supported prices in the preference providing countries and world
market prices. Such gaps may be further eroded if the developed countries
reform their own support arrangements, and recipients who rely heavily on
them will face significant adjustment costs.
launching of a new round of trade negotiations at Doha provides an added
impetus for the present agricultural negotiations in the WTO and enhances the
prospects for successfully concluding a new improved agreement on
the inclusion of some negotiating issues, particularly the overlap between
WTO rules and multilateral environmental agreements, could present
significant risks to reforming the agricultural trading system.
along with other issues prescribed at Doha including animal welfare and
expanding the range of products covered by geographic indications, could
result in negotiating resources being bogged down in issues that are
peripheral to the objective of making markets more open and less distorted by
these issues extend well beyond trade considerations and would be best dealt
with in other forums in the WTO or other international bodies. Indeed, there
are some members that could well use them to sabotage effective agricultural
trade reform and as a justification for protectionism.
recently been a hardening of protectionist positions in the United States and
Japan, and although many countries subscribe in general terms to the
desirability of more open, less distorted markets, they are reluctant to
embrace liberalisation for agriculture. This presents a particular challenge,
not only for efficient agricultural exporting countries like Australia but
also for developing countries.
group, developing countries would benefit from agricultural trade
liberalisation, and they are likely to be more influential in the present
negotiations than formerly. The special needs of developing countries must be
addressed if the current negotiations are to succeed.
internal reforms and assistance from developed countries with education and
improved infrastructure, along with trade liberalisation, would help with
some developing countries view their special conditions as justifying high
protection of their own agriculture, which would be to their own economic
cost as well as prejudicing a successful outcome for agriculture from the WTO
trade round presents an opportunity for realising increasing benefits from
more liberal agricultural trade and less distorted markets.
vigilance will be required to ensure that what is agreed actually opens
markets further and makes them less distorted. There are currently many
threats to such an outcome and many issues being injected into the
agricultural trade policy debate that can divert us from the main game.
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