Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO's committees and agreements

AGRICULTURE NEGOTIATIONS: BACKGROUNDER

Export restrictions and taxes

Some countries want to get rid of measures that hamper exports in order to improve their food security — they would have more confidence in their ability to secure supplies for importing.

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UPDATED 1 DECEMBER 2004

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This briefing document explains current agricultural issues raised before and in the current negotiations. It has been prepared by the Information and Media Relations Division of the WTO Secretariat to help public understanding about the agriculture negotiations. It is not an official record of the negotiations.


Phase 1  back to top

A number of importing countries, for example Japan, say their food supplies could be disrupted if exporting countries restrict or tax exports. They propose disciplines on export restrictions, for example converting them to taxes that would then be reduced (similar to “tariffication” of import restrictions). Switzerland proposes eliminating these completely, but with some flexibility for developing countries.

The Cairns Group of net exporters has submitted a similar proposal, but linked it to reductions in “tariff escalation” — i.e. higher duties on processed products, which hamper the development of processing industries in countries that produce raw materials. The group also proposes flexibility for developing countries.

Proposals that mention export restrictions submitted in Phase 1

 

Phase 2  back to top

Most participants agree that some disciplines are needed to ensure supplies are available for importing countries. Among the issues that have been raised:

Symmetry between imports and exports: Some countries argue that the disciplines in this subject should be seen as part of balancing measures on the imports with those on exports. Others disagree.

Supporting domestic processing: Several developing countries say taxes or restrictions on raw materials exports are sometimes needed in order to promote domestic processing industries, particularly when importing developed countries charge higher tariffs on processed products than on raw materials (“tariff escalation”). Some countries argue that getting rid of tariff escalation is a better solution.

Prohibited products and national security: Some countries say some restrictions are needed to prevent exports of hazardous and other prohibited products, and for national security reasons. Others disagree.

Phase 2 papers or “non-papers” from: Japan, and the US.

 

Preparations for ‘modalities’  back to top

In the preparations for “modalities” the discussions follow similar themes. Are export restrictions are as serious as import restrictions? Should bindings and reductions on the two sides be symmetrical? Some countries say “yes” because for them their ability to purchase imports is a food security question. Others reject that argument, saying export barriers are less serious than import barriers. Some propose that any disciplines should apply only to food products, not to all agricultural products.

More concretely, one country proposes converting all quantitative restrictions into export taxes that would be bound and reduced to unspecified levels, with some special and differential treatment to allow developing countries to act in emergencies.

Some countries argue that there is no mandate to discuss export taxes and restrictions. Others counter that these measures legitimately come under the heading “export competition”, under Article 20 of the Agriculture Agreement (which deals with post-2000 negotiations) and therefore within the Doha mandate.

 

The revised first draft ‘modalities’  back to top

The draft would outlaw “new” export restrictions and taxes except in certain circumstances (the general exceptions of GATT Articles 11, 20 and 21).

 

The draft frameworks  back to top

(see Cancún ‘framework’ proposals)

The Japanese draft says that disciplines on export restrictions and taxes should be substantially strengthened. Kenya wants the present exemptions for developing countries to continue (they are exempt except on products for which they are net exporters). The Pérez del Castillo and Derbez drafts propose that this subject should be negotiated.

 

August 2004 framework: export restrictions and taxes  back to top

The framework simply says disciplines are to be strengthened, the details to be negotiated. It also includes differential export taxes under “Issues of interest but not agreed”.



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