IPC Issue Brief Number Two:
"Developing countries need opportunities in agriculture, not exemptions"
August 19th, 2003
"With less than a month to go before the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, developing countries must decide on their priorities for the agriculture negotiations," said Robert L. Thompson, IPC Chairman and former World Bank Director of Rural Development in a recent editorial. "They must decide whether to push the developed countries for substantial reductions in trade distorting domestic subsidies and export subsidies, and substantial increases in market access, or to continue with Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) and new exemptions for special products." The International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) believes that traditional S&DT longer transition periods and reduced commitments is no longer sufficient to address the complex challenges facing developing countries and that the proposed special products exemptions are particularly ill advised.
"This proposal sets a dangerous precedent of creating different sets of rules for developed and developing countries," asserted Thompson. "There is also a risk that protection would go to the most politically powerful producers rather than those who most need it. Worst of all, imposing high tariffs on staple products raises food prices for all consumers, hurting the people that such policies are supposed to help poor people in developing countries, people who spend the largest portion of their income on food."
Yet, developing countries need help competing in world markets and must be able to protect farmers from import surges in critical crops. In its most recent publication, Beyond Special and Differential Treatment, the IPC recommends a simple, transparent, temporary Special Safeguard on a limited list of products. This would allow developing countries to temporarily increase tariffs to deal with disruptive import surges without the dangers of permanent exemptions.
Developing countries will derive far greater benefits from an ambitious outcome that reduces trade-distorting domestic subsidies, eliminates government funded export competition and increases real market access, than from special exemptions and exceptions to WTO rules.
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Editorial by Robert L. Thompson: Developing countries need opportunities in agriculture, not exemptions.
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