Information backlog slows down WTO work

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New Delhi, Sep 28 (UNI) Even as Doha round of negotiations on reduction in industrial tariff and agricultural subsidies continues without any tangible breakthrough in sight, the World Trade Organisation has revealed that as many as 78 of its member countries have not yet notified either their export subsidies or domestic support or market access measures relating to agriculture for 1995-2001 period with the Agriculture Committee of the world trade body so far.

This was disclosed during a meeting of the Agriculture Committee which met in Geneva on Wednesday, according to WTO. However, the Committee took up over 20 written questions based on 39 notifications it had received since its last regular meeting held in March.

Ministers at the 2001 Doha conference had identified export credit and other financing programmes, concerns of the net-food-importing developing and least-developed countries and tariff quota administration as three implementation issues for the world trade body.

Among those allowed distorting domestic supports above minimal 'de minimis' levels, Argentina, Norway, and the US have not notified their spending for 2002 or earlier, Canada has not notified for 2003 and after, the EU for 2004 and after, and Japan, South Korea and Switzerland for 2005 and after. 'De minimis': minimal amounts of domestic support that are allowed even though they distort trade up to five per cent of the value of productionfor developed countries, ten per cent for developing.

On domestic support issue, Brazil, Mexico and Switzerland came under scanner, while China had to answer a series of questions from United States on value-added rebates and tariff quota administration under its annual transititional reveiw.

Cuba continued to press for a 720-day repayment period for export credits offered to least-developed and net-food-importing developing countries as against the normal 180 days export credit allowed on commercial terms. Argentina wanted the issue of export credit to remain on agenda of the Committee's regular meeting as it is not a new negotiating issue.

To a question by the US if value-added tax exemptions given by China to some of its agricultural products complied with the general agreement on tariff and trade (GATT), China replied that exemptions from the 13 per cent VAT on agricultural products applied only to products made and sold by farmers, not to companies, and, therefore, it complied with the GATT.

To a question by Australia, South Korea disclosed it provided 28.9 billion dollar of export subsidies for packing and transport in 2005 and 2006. Such subsidies are allowed to developing countries under WTO rules.

Australia, European Union and United States grilled Brazil and also Mexico to some extent on its domestic support to agriculture allowed under the Green Box.

When Agriculture Committee chairperson Valeria Csukasi reminded members that notifications are important for monitoring their commitment and for current negotiations, Australia agreed but complained , particularly about late notifications from three biggest suppliers of domestic support to agriculture - the EU, Japan and the US.

Of the 39 notifications received by the Committee since its last meeting held in March, 16 were about domestic support, 10 about tariff quotas, seven about export subsidies and five about special safeguards, WTO said.

UNI

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