Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

The EU Roars Back at the Latest WTO Doha Agriculture Draft

On February 18, 2008, the article reproduced in full below appeared in Canada's Globe & Mail newspaper.  The article reports on the very negative response by a majority of the EU countries the Revised Draft Modalities for Agriculture by the WTO Committee on Agriculture.  Please click on Revised Draft Modalities for Agriculture by the WTO Committee on Agriculture (TN/AG/W/4/Rev. 1 (8 February 2008).

A negative response is to be expected because both the EU and the United States are being asked to open their agricultural markets (always a sensitive area) by reducing farm tariffs and eliminating certain farm subsidy programs.

While there is reason to be concern for whether the Doha Round can be successfully concluded, it would be premature to say that a deal cannot be reached.  Any WTO negotiation involves some countries giving and other countries taking.  An agreement is signed when the parties realize that those being asked to give have made all the concessions that they can and those that benefit realize that what they are being offered is better than nothing at all.

Most of EU spurns WTO trade proposals

The Associated Press

Brussels — France said Monday that 20 European countries have rejected the latest World Trade Organization proposals for a global trade deal as being too damaging to European farming.

“We prefer there is no agreement rather than a bad agreement,” French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said, after 20 of the EU's 27 farm ministers met in Brussels to discuss the WTO's compromise proposals put forward 10 days ago.

The EU ministers' reactions highlighted the divide between the WTO's rich and poor nations, which have failed in recent months to resolve any of their biggest differences.

“What we want to say all together is that last paper is unacceptable. It is even more unbalanced than previous papers,” Mr. Barnier said. The wholesale rejection of the 20 nations left little doubt that drastic changes were necessary to salvage a trade deal.

Britain was the only major European trade power that did not attend the meeting.

The WTO's chief farm negotiator, who drafted the proposal, conceded that thorny issues such as cuts in U.S. farm subsidies and EU tariffs for products such as beef and dairy would be left for countries to hammer out when talks “reach the endgame.”

But Mr. Barnier insisted that farming had been unfairly targeted within the global package.

“It is totally unbalanced between concessions that would be made and other issues like services, industry or geographical indications, where we see no progress,” he said.

The EU's executive body, the European Commission, negotiates on behalf of the 27 member states but is not expected to go against the wishes of such a large majority of nations.

Subsidies to farmers and tariffs on imports in wealthier nations – and barriers to manufacturing imports in major developing countries such as China, India and Brazil – have been at the heart of the stalemate in the WTO's long-struggling Doha round of trade talks.

The talks were launched in 2001 with the goal of adding billions of dollars to global commerce and lifting millions of people worldwide out of poverty.

For consumers round the world, a successful trade agreement could mean cheaper prices for groceries and manufactured goods. For businesses, a deal could provide a safeguard for continued trade expansion amid signs of a global economic slowdown.

Poorer countries, meanwhile, are hoping to spur their own economic development by securing cuts in subsidies to U.S. farmers of cotton, corn, soybean, wheat and other crops.

Key in the negotiations – and the source of so much dispute – is that any global deal must be agreed by consensus and will be legally binding on all countries. Those failing to live up to their commitments could be hauled before the WTO's dispute body, where billions of dollars in sanctions can be awarded.

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