Some progress was made in Doha Round talks between the 'group of five' (EU, US, Brazil, India and Australia) in Paris at the end of the last week. The secrecy surrounding the talks suggests that concrete proposals were being discussed, particularly on the vexed question of market access.
The US and the EU have now accepted the five tier proposal put forward by the G-20 and the EU has indicated that it will keep its list of sensitive products demanding special treatment to a minimum. It is understood that the EU and the US have put concrete tariff reduction proposals on the table, but much needs to be done before the Hong Kong ministerial in December.
At the farm council last week, a number of member states, Spain being the most vociferous, accused the Commission of 'selling out' to the US after a visit by Mariann Fischer Boel to Washington. However, the doughty farm commissioner was having none of it, retorting that 'We are not a gift shop.'
My current forecast of likely Doha Round outcomes in agriculture is:
• There will be an agreement, but not at Hong Kong (there isn’t enough time to sort out all the complexities)
• Export subsidies and their equivalents will be phased out by 2017
• There will be sharper reductions for high tariffs and a 100% AVE limit with very limited exceptions (essentially rice tariffs in Korea and Japan). There will be exemptions from the formula adopted for ‘sensitive’ products
• Permitted domestic support levels will be reduced but not in a way that will seriously trouble the EU and the US
• Cairns Group countries will be allowed to keep their single desk exporters, subject to undertakings on transparency
• ‘As one gets closer to the final deals that need to be fashioned, the GI issue will no doubt play a significant role in the balance of advantage that countries will seek from the Round.’ (Tim Josling)
• Provision for future negotiations will include a review of which subsidies should qualify for Green Box treatment
Anyone who wants my full paper on the Doha Round should E mail me at email@example.com