Tokyo: Japan and India agreed on 7 May 2007 to seek change to a recent World Trade Organisation proposal on farm trade because it “lacked balance,” Japanese officials said.
The agreement was reached in a telephone conversation between Japanese agriculture minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka and commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath, the officials said.
The proposal last week by Crawford Falconer, the chairman of the WTO’s special committee on agriculture, said in part that the number of “sensitive” products that would be excluded from drastic tariff cuts should be limited to no more than 5% of the total.
Rice in Japan belongs to the sensitive category.
The two ministers agreed that the proposal “lacked balance” in that it was tough on certain WTO members, officials said.
Matsuoka told Nath that the proposal presented tough terms on which Japan was to liberalise farm trade while it offered relatively soft terms to the United States for slashing its farm subsidies.
He was quoted as proposing to Nath that they “continue acting together on the matter.”
Nath said India was prepared to issue a statement in WTO talks that the proposal was unfair for developing nations and unbalanced, the officials said.
As for the percentage of farm trade items exempted from drastic tariff cuts, Japan wants a level of 10-15%, while the United States wants no more than 1% and the European Union hopes for 8%.
On the other hand, Falconer called on the United States to cut trade distorting domestic support to below $19 billion per year in an attempt to revitalise moribund world trade liberalisation talks.
Agriculture has been a key stumbling block in the WTO’s Doha round of trade negotiations, which were launched in the Qatari capital in 2001.
The US and EU have engaged in bitter arguments over the subject, with Brussels demanding more reductions in US farm subsidies and Washington insisting that proposed European tariff cuts do not go far enough.