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WTO Examines Costa Rica’s Continued Rice Subsidy Breach

22 June 2012

GLOBAL - Government programmes supporting agriculture domestically in 40 WTO members came under the spotlight his week in the meeting of the Agriculture Committee of the World Trade Organisation, as once again did Costa Rica’s continuing breach of its subsidy commitments caused by a government-guaranteed price for rice growers.

These were among over 30 issues that were the subject of questions on how fellow-members are implementing their commitments on domestic support, market access, and export subsidies under the Agriculture Agreement.

The committee, which comprises all WTO members, also discussed briefly some of the issues raised in informal consultations earlier in the week, on issues related to the information they share with each other, a vital part of the committee’s responsibility to monitor how they are keeping their promises.

At the beginning of the meeting, outgoing chairperson Jonas Skei (Norway) said he appreciated the contributions delegations had made to the committee’s work while he chaired it. He regretted that little was concluded in that time, but was encouraged that work was progressing on the right path.

He also urged them to “spend less time on discussing legal provisions and more time discussing members’ policies; less time on trying to define what the secretariat and the chair may or may not do, and more time on the real concerns between members”.

“You’ve made a happy man very old,” he joked before handing over to Emalene Marcus-Burnett (Barbados).

The “regular” Agriculture Committee’s task is to monitor how governments are implementing their obligations under the agreement and discuss issues that arise.

By far the most questions and comments were about the domestic support programmes of Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, the EU and its 27 member states, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Norway, Paraguay and Saudi Arabia. Most were in response to the latest information that these members have notified to the WTO.

Since the last meeting, 48 new notifications were received, delegates were told. Most of the questions in this meeting were about these notifications, some followed up on queries in previous meetings.

The WTO said that Costa Rica’s latest notification continues to confirm that it is exceeding its agreed limit on domestic support resulting from a price-linked support regime used for rice. Document G/AG/N/CRI/40, circulated on 14 May 2012, reports that support for rice was $104 million in 2011, compared to its committed ceiling of just under $16 million.

In this meeting Costa Rica said that it cannot say when it will be able again to comply with its commitment. The US, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, Peru, Malaysia, Pakistan and Colombia said they were concerned about the breach and about Costa Rica’s inability to provide any additional information.

Costa Rica replied that it hopes to provide a status report at the next meeting. It has been repeatedly questioned about the breaches since September 2010.

TheCropSite News Desk

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