Tokyo: The WTO’s Group of Ten food importing countries, including Japan, have calling for wider participation in the stalled Doha Round of trade liberalisation talks on agricultural issues, a key sticking point.
The G-10 countries want the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to open up current negotiations to a wider range of member countries and oppose moves by the Group of Four (G-4) to draft an outline agreement by themselves.
Negotiations between the G-4 -- the United States, the European Union, Brazil and India -- broke up last month on disagreements over agriculture and market access, issues that have dogged the negotations for years.
A communique issued on 2 July after conversations between Japanese Agriculture Minister Norihiko Akagi and his G-10 counterparts, said the multilateral process in the WTO “needs to be intensified to allow for a successful conclusion” of the Doha Round.
It said the talks should give consideration to farm products that importing countries want to protect with high tariffs, such as Japan’s rice.
“All sensitivities have to be taken into account, as well as various levels of development, in line with the development dimension of the Doha Development Agenda,” it said.
The G-10 members hope their position will be reflected in a draft accord on farm trade which is expected to be presented in mid-July by the chairman overseeing the agriculture negotiations.
Following the release of the communique, Akagi told reporters that he plans to visit Europe to explain the G-10 stance to WTO Director General Pascal Lamy and other key officials.
Japan strongly opposes the capping of tariffs on farm imports, saying it could ruin its agriculture sector.
Japan imposes tariffs of 778% on rice, arguing that the crop requires special protection as it is crucial for the livelihood of small communities in rural areas and for flood control.
The G-10 currently comprises Iceland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Norway, Switzerland and Taiwan. Bulgaria withdraw from the G-1O before it joined the European Union.