Dallying in Dalian

Little progress in WTO agricultural negotiations

Published: Monday 15 August 2005

at a World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting, which ended in Dalian, China, on July 13, 2005, trade ministers from 30 countries agreed on a general formula to reduce agricultural tariffs in the wto. But with a deadline for an agreement on the core issues in the negotiations (modalities) just three weeks away, experts say the achievement is too little too late.

The deadlock on the formula was broken by the eu and us agreeing to a proposal by the g 20 group of developing nations regarding a tiered formula to reduce agricultural tariffs. But countries still have to decide on the exact number of tiers and the tariffs to be cut at each level. Also, an agreement on domestic and export subsidies, the two other pillars of the agricultural negotiations, continues to be elusive.

Agriculture remains a key stumbling block in the negotiations. Officials at the Union ministry of commerce (moc) blame the developed nations for the delays: they slowed the process and tried to push their demands at the last minute. Developing countries on the whole expect to gain from a reform of the agricultural trading system through lower subsidies and lower tariff barriers. Therefore, they won't budge on the other areas of the trading regime, such as non-agricultural market access and services, until developed nations give more commitments in agriculture.

India also stands to gain from the reforms. During the meet, it announced plans to give products from African Least Developed Countries preferential access to it's markets. This would make up for the loss they would suffer due to other countries also enjoying lower overall tariffs.

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