The Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, believes that the determination of a date for an end to agricultural export subsidies could give a lift to the Doha Round negotiations.
Even though ending these subsidies is already a given between the developed and developing countries, the establishment of a timetable would enliven the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 6th Ministerial Meeting, which began today.
"This is not any concession. We know that it will come at the end of the round," Amorim commented on the eve of the conference.
"The pledge already exists, but setting a date would have a strong symbolic impact." Putting an end to export subsidies was agreed upon by the WTO’s member states in July, 2004.
The minister emphasizes that, for the negotiations to make effective progress, the European Union will have to improve its offer of access to agricultural commodity markets.
The G20 calls for a 54% average reduction in the tariff levels practiced by the developed countries, whereas the European Union defends an average cut of 39% and the inclusion of 8% of the products (of a total of 176) on a sensitive list, not liable to the average cut, and nearly all the products of interest to Brazil are on this list.
The Europeans have been claiming they have no more room to bargain and are unable to improve their offer. In Amorim’s assessment, however, there is a degree of ambiguity in the European position, since they don’t make it clear whether they will never make a better offer or are just unable to do it at this moment.
"Being optimistic and believing that they just can’t do it at this moment, but will be able to in the future, if we decide on a deadline for ending export subsidies, it will demonstrate a serious intention to continue to move ahead," he judges.
"We know that if the European Union fails to improve its offer of market access, the United States will not improve its own and may even rescind its offer when it comes to domestic subsidies. In which case, everything remains at a stalemate," the chancellor concludes.