Contributing Lawyers

Canada

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross

Australia

Andrew Hudson



Developing Countries Need to Prepare Agricultural Safeguard Mechanism

The developing countries will have a lot of hard work to do to prepare the special agricultural safeguard mechanism that will be needed if the Doha Round is completed.  If the "package of elements" relating to agriculture are accepted, developing countries would reduce their import duties on a majority of agricultural products.  As a result, there will be greater competition within the developing country in the area of agriculture.  This could result in (1) increased imports and (2) injury to the farmers in the developing countries.  As a result, the "package of elements" includes a special agricultural safeguard mechanism. 

However, the special agricultural safeguard mechanism has restrictions to prevent the misuse of the safeguard mechanism to reverse the bargain expected by the developed countries (and developing countries) who want agricultural market access in developed countries.

Developing countries will require technical assistance to establish the legal and administrative infrastructure for the special agricultural safeguard.  First, the developing countries will need one or more institutions to investigate whether the circumstances are appropriate for a special agricultural safeguard.  It may be a court or a specialized tribunal in the developing country.  The developing countries would also need to consider whether the leader or his/her designate (e.g. Minister of Trade) may receive recommendations or whether decisions of the investigative body are imposed.  Further, the developing countries must determine whether decisions are final or subject to a domestic review or may be reviewed by the WTO only.

Second, the developing countries will require safeguard laws relating to both (1) the establishment of the institutional infrastructure, (2) the investigation and (3) the imposition of surtaxes.  There will be some hard structuring issues, such as (1) would the government be entitled to self-initiate a safeguard proceeding, (2) would it be necessary for the (poor) domestic farmers to be involved in the process, (3) if the poor farmers were required to be involved in the process, could they participate remotely as it will be expensive to leave the lands and travel to the cities for the investigations, (4) will the investigation be conducted by documents or would a hearing be required, (5) could the government represent the farmers, etc.

Third, the developing countries will require an import monitoring system to determine when the imports of agricultural products exceed the 40% surge threshold. 

Fourth, the developing countries will require a transparency mechanism to communicate to the WTO members about the special agricultural safeguard remedies imposed.

There will be a lot of work to do to enable the developing country governments to prepare for the conclusion of the Doha Round.

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