India & China in WTO on Aggregate Measurement of Support

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  • India and China jointly submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) calling for the elimination – by developed countries – of the most trade-distorting form of farm subsidies, known in WTO parlance as Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) or ‘Amber Box’ support as a prerequisite   for consideration of other reforms in domestic support negotiations.

  • This is an important proposal by India and China in view of the ongoing negotiations for the upcoming 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO to be held in Buenos Aires in December 2017.

  • It counters the efforts by some countries to target the subsidies of the developing countries while letting the developed countries retain their huge farm subsidies.

  • The joint paper reveals that developed countries, including the US, the EU and Canada, have been consistently providing trade-distorting subsidies to their farmers at levels much higher than the ceiling applicable to developing countries.

  • Most of the developing countries, including India and China, do not have AMS entitlements.

Some Conceptual Understanding:

The agricultural package of the Uruguay Round has fundamentally changed the way domestic support in favour of agricultural producers was treated under the GATT 1947. A key objective has been to discipline and reduce domestic support while at the same time leaving great scope for governments to design domestic agricultural policies in the face of, and in response to, the wide variety of the specific circumstances in individual countries and individual agricultural sectors. The approach agreed upon is also aimed at helping ensure that the specific binding commitments in the areas of market access and export competition are not undermined through domestic support measures.

The main conceptual consideration is that there are basically two categories of domestic support — support with no, or minimal, distortive effect on trade on the one hand (often referred to as “Green Box” measures) and trade-distorting support on the other hand (often referred to as “Amber Box” measures). For example, government provided agricultural research or training is considered to be of the former type, while government buying-in at a guaranteed price (“market price support”) falls into the latter category. Under the Agreement on Agriculture, all domestic support in favour of agricultural producers is subject to rules. In addition, the aggregate monetary value of Amber Box measures is, with certain exceptions, subject to reduction commitments as specified in the schedule of each WTO Member providing such support.

The Green Box 

The Agreement on Agriculture sets out a number of general and measure-specific criteria which, when met, allow measures to be placed in the Green Box (Annex 2). These measures are exempt from reduction commitments and, indeed, can even be increased without any financial limitation under the WTO. The Green Box applies to both developed and developing country Members but in the case of developing countries special treatment is provided in respect of governmental stockholding programmes for food security purposes and subsidized food prices for urban and rural poor. 

Source: PIB & WTO