Latest WTO agriculture update

Pascal Lamy, the WTO Director-General, provided an end-of-term report on the status of the Doha Round trade negotiations at the July meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee before delegates left for their August break. This is what he had to say about the agricultural negotiations.

As you know, work in agriculture is continuing, particularly in light of the renewed political mandate from the G20 and G8. The Revision 4 bracketed and annotated areas needing further work have been identified. These include SSM [Special Safeguard Mechanism] (especially the architecture), cotton, issues related to sensitive products, preference erosion and tropical products, TRQ [Tariff Rate Quota] expansion as well as tariff simplification.

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Does farm size influence environmental outcomes?

A widely-accepted justification for subsidising agriculture is that we need to prevent the emergence of the industrialised, mono-cultural agriculture which is the inevitable result of an efficiency-based, cost-oriented farming model by protecting the diversified, environmentally-friendly small farmer in order to maintain the positive environmental benefits of European agriculture. This is part of the philosophy of agrarianism which underpins much discussion of agricultural policy.

Let us leave aside for the moment the fact that the bulk of existing farm subsidies go to larger farmers rather than smaller ones, so that even if the thesis above is valid, current agricultural policy does not support it.

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Friday fun quiz: What is a public good?

Anyone who has followed the CAP debate this past few years will have observed how the term ‘public good’ has been adopted by almost everyone seeking to advance their own vision of the CAP, from the dinosaurs of COPA-COGECA, to the more moderate National Farmers Union to the José Bové’s Via Campesina, organic farmers like the Soil Association, food policy wonks like Sustain and the Food Ethics Council, and of course the various environmental groups from where the public goods idea orignally hailed.

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Trends on the EU rice market

There was a fundamental reform of the EU rice market in 2003. The intervention price was cut in half to bring it down to the (then) level of the world prices, and producers were compensated by an increase in direct payments. An important impetus for this reform lay in the market opening offer by the EU to least developed countries (LDCs) under the Everything But Arms agreement which promised duty-free and quota-free access for rice imports from LDCs from September 2009.

Few LDCs are net exporters of rice. However, it was feared that LDCs might export, in line with the rules of origin, the totality of their domestic rice production to the EU, while importing their domestic consumption requirements from the world market.

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