WTO dimensions of a UK 'Brexit' and agricultural trade

Following a first round of discussions on UK demands for a renegotiation of the terms of its membership of the EU at the European Council meeting last month, it now seems that the February meeting of the Council will agree on some package of measures and promises in response to UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s demands. It will then be up to Cameron to decide if this package is sufficient for him to campaign to stay in the EU in the referendum promised to take place before the end of 2017 and possibly later this year.

Even if Cameron decides to campaign in favour of staying in, there is no guarantee that the UK voters will follow him.… Read the rest

The EU has finally agreed to eliminate export subsidies…three cheers!

As long as I have been commenting on the CAP, its most criticized feature has been its use of export subsidies, also called export refunds. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the EU was spending €10 billion a year on export subsidies, almost one-third of the CAP budget, in order to allow traders to get rid of the EU’s growing export surpluses by paying the difference between the EU’s high internal prices and lower world market prices.
Export subsidies allowed EU exporters to grab market share in import markets from competing exporters, put downward pressure on the level of world market prices, and competed unfairly with local producers in many developing countries.… Read the rest

TTIP and the potential for US beef imports

Beef is generally considered to be a sensitive sector in the EU-US negotiations on a possible Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement. Currently, imports of beef from the US are limited by high tariffs and by the refusal of the EU to allow the import of beef produced with the aid of pharmaceutical technologies such as hormones and beta-agonists (a class of non-hormonal compounds that act to increase feed efficiency).

Nonetheless, EU imports of non-hormone-treated beef from the US have been increasing in recent years. Different views have been expressed about the likely consequences for the EU beef market if market access were further liberalised under a TTIP agreement.… Read the rest

WTO failure on trade facilitation agreement puts question mark over Doha timeline

On Thursday this week, the WTO Director-General Robert Azevêdo admitted to failure in concluding the negotiations to adopt the Protocol of Amendment on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) by 31 July as had been agreed by Ministers at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali last December. The Protocol of Amendment was intended to start the process to formally insert the trade facilitation deal into the overall WTO Agreement.
The TFA was part of a carefully-balanced package at Bali designed to get substantive negotiations on the Doha Round again underway. In addition to a series of decisions and declarations on trade facilitation, agriculture, cotton, development and least developed country (LDC) issues, the Ministerial Conference had set a deadline of the end of 2014 for the Trade Negotiations Committee to develop a clearly-defined work programme on the remaining Doha Round issues.… Read the rest

Changing patterns of global agrifood trade

Publication of the latest United Nations International Trade Statistics Yearbook with comparative figures from 2000 to 2012 gives an insight into the important structural changes in patterns of global agrifood trade over the past decade. The figures underline the way in which developing countries have become the dynamic motor behind agrifood trade flows, a finding which has relevance when discussing the coverage of WTO trade rules.
During this period agrifood trade maintained and even increased its share of total merchandise exports. It share was 6.1% in 2000, but increased to 7.0% in 2009 following the sharp rise in global food prices in 2008-09.… Read the rest

The G-33 public stock-holding proposal for Bali

The new WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo gave a rather downbeat assessment last week to the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee on the state of play of the texts which are meant to be agreed at the Bali Ministerial Council in early December. In an earlier post I discussed the issues put on the table by developing countries to make up the agricultural element of this Bali ‘mini-package’. These include new rules to deal with underfill of tariff rate quotas, a halving by developed countries of their ceilings on allowed export subsidies, and an exemption for developing countries from regular WTO disciplines on purchases of food products from low-income farmers at government-set prices when used for public stock-holding.… Read the rest

Life after Bali for the WTO Doha Round

Some weeks ago I discussed the prospects for a Doha Round mini-package at the next WTO Ministerial Council meeting in Bali in December, and I explained the proposals making up the agricultural elements of that mini-package. A recent paper produced jointly by the Geneva-based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also provides a useful introduction to the agricultural issues at stake in the Bali talks.
Since then, the Chair of the agricultural negotiations has provided a status update on the progress towards agreement on this mini-package. It makes for tortuous reading as the negotiators get into mind-numbing detail on aspects of the proposals.… Read the rest

The Doha Round Bali ‘mini-package’ in agriculture

In the previous post, I discussed the process leading up to the forthcoming Bali Ministerial Conference of the WTO and the prospects for progress on a Doha Round ‘mini-package’. This ‘mini-package’ is planned to consist of three components: trade facilitation, some development/LDC issues and some agricultural elements (with the possibility of including other elements such as the dispute settlement review and the Information Technology Agreement if progress allows). In this post I discuss the issues being negotiated as part of the agricultural strand of this package.
The agricultural consultations have focused around three proposals tabled so far:
• a G-20 non paper which proposes an understanding on tariff rate quota (TRQ) administration provisions.… Read the rest

Prospects for a Doha Round mini-package at Bali this year

With Brussels and national capitals closed for the month of August so little happening on the CAP front, it is timely for a stock-taking of the state of play in the multilateral trade negotiations.
In December later this year, the WTO at its 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia will make yet another effort to salvage some concrete deliverables from the tortuous Doha Round negotiations. The negotiations have proceeded in fits and starts, but with more fits than starts, since the cancellation of what should have been the 7th Ministerial Conference (MC) in Geneva in December 2008 following the failure to agree on revised modalities documents.… Read the rest

WTO EU Trade Policy Review 2013

Every two years the WTO secretariat undertakes a review of the EU’s trade policy including agricultural policy measures which affect trade. The agricultural section of the review builds on the EU’s notifications to the WTO under various agreements, notably the Agreement on Agriculture (particularly the notifications on domestic support, export subsidies and tariff rate quota utilisation) and the notification under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. The latest EU trade policy review for 2013 was released last week following discussion in the WTO Trade Policy Review Committee.
The Trade Policy Review provides succinct summaries of the relevant EU farm legislation and policy instruments, even if some of its data (for example, on levels of domestic support) are a little outdated because of the time required to submit the relevant notifications.… Read the rest