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EU’s agriculture market access offer falls short

EU’s agriculture market access offer falls short

The European Union’s offer on agricultural market access represents an improvement on its previous position, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

“But the tariff cuts and quota expansion it proposes are still too small, and the loopholes too numerous.”

The European Union circulated a proposal on 28 October covering the treatment of agriculture and a range of non-agricultural issues in the WTO Doha negotiations.

Mr Sutton said the EU has a leadership role to play in these negotiations. And other major players have been signalling new flexibility.

“For these reasons there were high expectations of the EU offer. We particularly needed movement on agricultural market access”.

Mr Sutton said that New Zealand and other Cairns Group members would want to look at the EU proposal carefully.

“But my initial reaction is one of disappointment at what they have delivered.”

Mr Sutton recalled that the commitment, made by all WTO members in launching the Doha negotiations, was to substantial improvement in market access for all products.

“The EU seems to have fallen short once again from real commitments in agriculture. Indeed, initial analysis suggested the proposal would effectively provide a carve-out for some key products of interest to New Zealand exporters.

“My concern is that there is not enough in this proposal to unblock the agriculture negotiations. Nor is there enough to persuade developing countries to come to the party with significant offers on industrial tariffs and services.

“So we don’t yet have the wider balance needed for a deal”.

Mr Sutton noted that a draft package for the WTO ministerial meeting scheduled for 13-18 December in Hong Kong was due to be circulated by the end of November.

“In light of this offer from the EU it is not immediately clear how we can meet that target.”

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