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EU agriculture proposal falls short of WTO mandate

EU agriculture proposal falls short of WTO mandate

The European Commission's release of a detailed draft proposal for the agriculture negotiations in the World Trade Organisation was a step forward, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said it was essential that the Europeans, significant players in world trade, were engaged in the negotiations, both for agriculture and the whole Doha Round.

"However the Cairns Group, developing countries and other major players are all looking for real reform on agriculture. This proposal, as it currently stands, just would not deliver."

Mr Sutton said the draft proposal ? which still must be approved by the EU Member States - was being finalised only three months before the deadline to set up the modalities of the negotiations, the framework of how new commitments would be implemented.

That didn't leave much time for bridging the gap between Europe and most other WTO members, he said.

"The Commission propose modest reforms in market access, export subsidies and domestic support. However, they have also included are a raft of so-called 'non-trade concerns' that have no place in the negotiations, and which would in fact raise new barriers to trade." Non-trade concerns covered in the proposal include possible bans on the use of some food names ("geographical indications"), reopening some of the rules that currently prevent supposed food safety issues being used as disguised barriers to trade, and costly labelling rules. These issues are not covered by the Doha agriculture negotiating mandate.

The proposal would cut import tariffs by an average of 36 percent, reduce the value of export subsidies by 45 percent and lower some trade-distorting domestic farm support by 55 percent, in addition to generous measures for developing countries, but would leave politically sensitive sectors, such as dairy and beef, largely untouched. The proposal does not offer any increase in quotas and would exclude much of the EC's domestic subsidies. It also fails to specify a reduction of the volume of export subsidies, let alone the mandated phase-out of export subsidies.

"The EC has in the past criticised the Cairns Group for its "extreme" level of ambition. But the EC's own paper quite frankly falls far short of the objectives that all WTO Members agreed at the Ministerial meeting at Doha in November 2001."

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