Bridges Weekly

In a stated attempt to “narrow the gaps” on one of the most contentious issues in the troubled Doha Round agriculture negotiations, Pakistan on 10 April issued a new paper seeking to split the differences between developing countries eager to shield some ‘special products’ from the full force of tariff cuts and the agricultural exporters that fear diminished commercial opportunities. Some delegates belonging to the former camp have denounced the new paper as fundamentally flawed, and said that instead of narrowing gaps, it has widened them.

WTO Members have agreed to allow developing countries to slate special products for flexible tariff treatment on the basis of food security, livelihood security, and rural development indicators. Precisely how many special products they should be accorded remains the subject of wide disagreement, as does the extent to which they will be shielded from tariff reduction.

Delegates from several members of the G-33 group, which has been the strongest proponent of substantial special product flexibilities, expressed disappointment with the informal paper.

Pakistan’s suggested approach incorporates some aspects of the positions taken by exporting countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, and the US, all of which have opposed the G-33’s demands. Notably, Pakistan belongs to both the G-33 and the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters (as do Indonesia and the Philippines).

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