A group of fifteen WTO Members* that joined the global trade body after 1996 circulated a new proposal on 13 March spelling out their demands for softer tariff cuts and longer implementation periods than whatever is eventually agreed to in the Doha Round agriculture negotiations for developing countries in general.
The sponsors of the paper (TN/AG/GEN/24), which include China, argue that they deserve additional flexibility because of the deep liberalisation commitments they made during the accession process - concessions that went far further those required of countries already belonging to the WTO when it came into being in 1995.
Specifically, the recently-acceded Members (RAMs) want to be allowed to make tariff cuts half the size of the percentage reductions that other developing countries would have to make under the formula. They would also like tariffs at 10 percent or lower to be spared from cuts altogether. The paper proposed a complete exemption from farm tariff reduction for small, low-income RAMs with economies in transition (such as Moldova and the Kyrgyz Republic).
With regard to farm subsidies, according to the proposal, RAMs with a bound commitment for trade-distorting amber box subsidies would not be obliged to reduce their current de minimis level. Furthermore, small, low-income transition economies would not have to reduce their amber box or de minimis support.
The paper proposes that RAMs, when implementing Doha Round commitments for cutting tariffs and subsidies, "shall have a grace period of five years, and shall be granted an implementation period of at least 5 years longer than other developing country Members." It is not clear precisely what this would mean: whether RAMs would be able to wait five years within their extra-long implementation periods before having to start fulfilling their commitments, or whether their longer implementation periods would be preceded by an additional five-year gap.
In case a recently-acceded Member's time frame for implementing accession-related obligations overlaps with the Doha implementation period, the paper specifies that it would be able to wait until five years after the end of the former before starting to implement new commitments.
*The paper was co-sponsored by Albania, Armenia, China, Croatia, Ecuador, Macedonia, Jordan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Mongolia, Oman, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
(ICTSD, March 14, 2007)