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WTO Deal To End Agric Export Subsidies

The 159 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at its 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, have signed a new international agreement to eliminate subsidies for farm exports.

The WTO director-general, Roberto Azevêdo, made this disclosure in Abuja, yesterday during a meeting with the organised private sector (OPS).

According to him, the Ministerial Decision on Export Competition was one of the most important decisions to come out of the Nairobi meeting.

“The WTO members, especially developing countries, have consistently demanded action on this issue due to the enormous distorting potential of these subsidies for domestic production and trade. The Nairobi meeting decision tackles the issue once and for all,” he declared.

While stating that a number of countries were currently using export subsidies to support agriculture exports, Azevêdo, however, added that the legally-binding decision would eliminate these subsidies and prevent governments from reverting to trade-distorting export support in the future. He further explained that under the decision, developed members have committed to remove export subsidies immediately, except for a handful of agriculture products, and developing countries would do so by 2018 while developing members would keep the flexibility to cover marketing and transport costs for agriculture exports until the end of 2023, and the poorest and food-importing countries would enjoy additional time to cut export subsidies.

He said that the decision contains disciplines to ensure that other export policies are not used as a disguised form of subsidies. These disciplines include terms to limit the benefits of financing support to agriculture exporters, rules on state enterprises engaging in agriculture trade, and disciplines to ensure that food aid does not negatively affect domestic production. Developing countries are given longer time to implement these rules.

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