WTO Ministerial Conference Focusing on Ag Trade

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The World Trade Organization Agriculture Committee, as part of this week’s ministerial conference, is holding discussions on improving global agricultural trade in the future. Dave Salmonsen, American Farm Bureau Federation Senior Director of Government Affairs, says they are looking at what can be addressed during the next ministerial conference two years from now.

“And so, you’ve got discussions ongoing about domestic support levels, market access, how to improve that. Public stockholding, which has become a real contentious issue that deals with countries that may subsidize grain production then hold it, definitely has a trade distorting impact depending how it’s used, so there’s a lot of discussion on that. And also, the safeguard mechanisms, how countries can respond to import surges.”

Another hot topic, Salmonsen says, is food security. “They’re looking to make sure the agricultural trade keeps flowing, try and get all the countries agreed to stop from imposing any export restrictions on agricultural products. Some countries have done that, but as they saw back in 2008-2009, it just makes it worse. So, there’s a real effort to get countries to say they’re not going to engage in any kind of export bans. And also, they want to make sure that countries are freely selling product into the World Food Program for humanitarian assistance.”

Finally, discussions also include improving standards. “One is new sanitary and phytosanitary standards, try to reaffirm and get countries committed to making sure their standards are science based, don’t have protectionist or restrictive features. And then there’s also transparency. The way the organization upholds the standards and agreements that all the members signed on to is to notify what they’re doing and making sure that countries aren’t exceeding their limits on trade distorting subsidies and other measures that impact trade.”

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