The Falconer Draft Text for the Doha Round WTO Negotiations on Agriculture - A 'Ha'porth of Tar' to Save the Vessel from Sinking or Just a Dab of Paint on an Irreparably Broken Hull?
Brett G. Williams
UNSW Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 368-408, 2007
Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 07/76
This article reviews the July 2007 draft text released by the Chair of the WTO negotiating group on agricultural trade. The purpose of the article is to review the proposed feasible outcome in the context of the reform of the application of the GATT to agriculture that was begun in the Uruguay Round. The paper notes that the proposed outcome deviates significantly from fundamental principles of the GATT. The resulting rules would still discriminate against Members with a comparative advantage in agriculture, largely as a result of the exclusion of the most protected products from liberalization. The outcome would largely fail to serve the GATT function of guiding members away from the most inefficient policy instruments, largely as a result of the overemphasis on domestic support rather than market access. The outcome would fail to assist Developing Members to overcome their own protectionist pressure because of the way that the outcome would accord a right to special and differential treatment to members who are in fact able to fully participate in the multilateral system as contemplated in the 1979 Enabling Clause. The paper reviews each aspect of the draft text: tariff reductions, the exclusions for sensitive products and special products, the special safeguard mechanisms, the export subsidy rules, the reductions in aggregate measure of support, de minimis, Blue box support and adjustments to the green box. The paper argues that this outcome will enable the most protectionist Members to resist liberalization. The paper argues that the main reason for the unsatisfactory outcome which the Chairman has put forward as politically feasible is that Developing Members have focussed more on creating exceptions for themselves than on trying to reinforce the integrity of the rules. The paper concludes by expressing the concern that perhaps the deviations from the guiding principles of reciprocity, ranking of policy instruments and non-discrimination are reaching the point at which it will be impossible for the system to harness the interests of exporters to arrive at politically sustainable economic welfare enhancing deals perhaps we are already there and not even this very imperfect deal is possible.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 41
Keywords: WTO, World Trade Organization, trade, international trade regulation, agricultural trade, Doha Round
JEL Classification: K10, F10, F13, Q17
Date posted: November 27, 2007