Agricultural trade, the World Trade Organization and the Doha Round

Agricultural trade, the World Trade Organization and the Doha Round

October 24, 2004
Netherlands
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World trade in agricultural and food products is currently worth nearly USD 5 trillion. Imports by the EU and the USA amount to about 22 and 25 per cent of this trade, respectively. Before 1995, most agricultural and food trade between signatories to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) effectively took place outside the rules laid down by the GATT for the orderly conduct of world trade. This situation changed in 1995 when the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URAA) came into force, under the auspices of the newly inaugurated World Trade Organization (WTO). Since 1995, the agrifood trade of the WTO´s 146 members has been subject to a complex set of rules and procedures, whose aims are to increase access to protected domestic markets, improve the transparency of individual countries´ trade measures and create a more level playing field for those countries that trade these products on world markets. A new round of multilateral trade negotiations – the Doha Round, now also called the Doha Development Agenda – has been underway since November 2001. The mandate for the negotiations, as it relates to agriculture, involves continuing the process of multilateral trade liberalisation that began with the URAA. Its aim is therefore to seek agreement on substantial reductions in border protection and in trade-distorting domestic subsidies, plus reductions, with a view to eventual abolition, in all forms of export subsidies. In addition, the mandate gives more prominence than hitherto to various other trade-related issues that have aroused controversy in recent years. In particular, it pledges to make special and differential treatment for developing countries an integral element in the negotiations and recognises the non-trade concerns (such as environmental protection, food security, rural development, etc) expressed in the negotiating proposals of a number of countries. The course “Agricultural trade, the World Trade Organization and the Doha Round” will cover the recent historical developments in agrifood trade policy, up to and including the current state of affairs in the negotiations. It will look at the underlying economic implications of the positions taken by the main agrifood trading countries/blocks, as well as the political economy aspects of the negotiations. The functioning of the WTO and the impact of the URAA provisions since it came into force will be analysed, not only as regards their effectiveness in reducing distortions to agrifood trade flows but also with respect to regulating market access on sanitary or phytosanitary grounds and the procedures for settling disputes. The main focus of the course will be on the Doha Round, including th arguments used by the main actors and what is at stake for them, and the latest developments in the negotiations. Objective and target group The goal of the course is to provide a balanced and multi-dimensional briefing on the principles and specific agreements regulating world trade in agrifood products, and on the issues surrounding the current negotiations over further liberalisation of the world trading system. It will include some theoretical background information, but will mostly confront participants with practical and topical issues in the field of agrifood trade and trade policy. Each presentation, from a team of academic analysts and highly qualified spokesmen for key negotiating countries, will be followed by ample discussion time. The course is intended for government officials, agricultural administrators, business decision-makers involved in agrifood trade, consultants, researchers and other professionals involved in the agrifood sector. Basic knowledge of the principles of international trade, and/or some practical experience, will be assumed. Presentations and documentation will be delivered in English. Course contents Day 1 (25 October 2004): Current landscape of agri-food trade, trade policy and the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture. Topics will include an overview of trade flows and tariff barriers, an analysis of the interdependence of domestic agricultural policies and trade policy in the main trading blocks, and the case for and against protectionism. The details of the regulatory mechanisms set up by the URAA will be presented, and contrasted with the situation under the pre-URAA GATT. An evaluation of the first 9 years of operation of the URAA will be made, and model simulations of the likely impact of further trade liberation will be presented and discussed. Day 2 (26 October 2004): Special topics. What is new in the Doha Round? The texts agreed at the close of the Uruguay Round include a separate agreement specifying when sanitary and phytosanitary arguments may be used to restrict market access. New formal procedures were also introduced for settling trade disputes. The way these measures have operated with respect to agricultural trade will be evaluated. The Doha Round aims to continue the process begun in the Uruguay Round of improving market access for agricultural imports, reducing trade-distorting domestic policies and disciplining export competition. This implies seeking agreement to reduce further the permitted levels of various distortionary measures, and to adapt some of the existing mechanisms (e.g. tariff rate quotas and the formula for reducing tariffs) to improve their effectiveness. Furthermore, some countries also want to bring new measures (such as export credits and single-desk trading enterprises) within the WTO´s disciplinary framework. In addition, many countries want various non-trade concerns (such as the multifunctionality of agriculture, the impact of trade liberalisation on development in the third world, animal welfare, food security and protection for geographical denominations of origin) to be accommodated in the Doha Round agreement, while others ask for stricter rules to define the set of the policy measures which in the URAA were exempted from reduction commitments on the grounds that they had no, or minimal, trade-distortionary effects. These issues will be analysed and discussed in detail. The potential role of NGOs in influencing the outcome of the negotiations will be examined. Day 3 (27 October 2004): The current state of the negotiations and the position of the main negotiating partners The positions of the EU, the USA, the Cairns Group (export-oriented low-protection countries) and one of the more actively engaged developing countries will be presented and defended by national representatives who are close to the trade talks. Course registrations, fee and information Deadline for registration is 23 August 2004. The registration form is on the website (http://www.phlo.nl) of the International Training Centre PHLO. The fee, including full board and lodging, tuition, and course material, but excluding travel to and from Wageningen and insurance is: € 1625,-. The fee must be received three weeks before the course starts, that is before 4 October 2004. No refund will be given for cancellations received after 15 October 2004. No financial assistance is available from the International Training Centre PHLO. Accommodation All participants will be accommodated at the Conference Centre ‘De Wageningse Berg', Gen. Foulkesweg 96, Wageningen. Lectures will also be given at the Conference Centre. Dates Delegates will arrive and register on Sunday 24 October, in time for an opening dinner. The course will run over three days (25-27 October), and conclude at 4.30 p.m. on the 27th. The course is fully residential, and some evening discussions are planned. The course will be held from 24-28 October 2003. - 24 October: Arrival and registration; opening dinner. - 25 October: Opening session begins 8.30 a.m.. - 26 October: Course continues - 27 October: Closing session ends 4.30 p.m., farewell dinner - 28 October: Departure Liability The organizers will not accept any legal liability for loss of life or property or illness during the course; participants must arrange adequate insurance. Course Committee Prof. Giovanni Anania (Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Calabria, Italy). Dr. Alison Burrell (Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy Group, Department of Social Sciences, Wageningen University, The Netherlands) (course leader). Prof. Alan Swinbank (Department of Agricultural and Food Economics, University of Reading, The United Kingdom). Dr Frank van Tongeren (Agricultural Economics Institute, Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands) Lecturers Lecturers will include members of the course committee, academics from other universities, speakers from the European Commission, the US Department of Agriculture, officials from other national administrations, and NGO representatives.