AWB Chairman Mr Brendan Stewart said today the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, the Australian negotiators and Australian farm leaders have made a commendable effort in Hong Kong to achieve agricultural trade liberalisation.
“While Mr Vaile has achieved some hard fought wins at the WTO meeting, including an elimination date for export subsidies and disciplines on inappropriate uses of food aid and export credit programs, some WTO members, such as the European Union, continue to refuse to reform their subsidised agricultural sectors,” Mr Stewart said.
“AWB is committed to comprehensive agricultural trade reform to address the massive subsidies and high tariffs Australian wheat growers face in the international market, and therefore we are disappointed some countries were not more forthcoming at this WTO Ministerial Meeting,” said Mr Stewart.
According to the OECD, United States wheat farmers receive almost $150 per metric tonne in government subsidies, with European Union farmers receiving in excess of $170 per metric tonne.
Despite the fundamental inequities in the areas of farmer subsidies and tariffs, the Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting focused heavily on the area of export competition including State Trading Enterprises (STEs) – which includes the Australian wheat Single Desk – although these enterprises involve only a small fraction of global trade.
“Many countries, including Australia, strongly defended Single Desk marketing in the negotiations and critically the Ministerial Declaration does not agree to eliminate export monopolies of commercial STEs but rather commits countries to address any trade distorting aspects of STEs, such as government underwriting,” said Mr Stewart.
The declaration agreed that “disciplines relating to exporting STEs will extend to the future use of monopoly powers” but only to ensure STEs do not circumvent the rules already identified on government financing, underwriting and export subsidies.
“AWB is a fully commercial entity and does not receive any financial support from Government and as such it does not distort trade. Consequently, any future WTO disciplines on trade distorting practices of STEs should not negatively affect us,” said Mr Stewart.
“The declaration of the Hong Kong WTO Ministerial clearly agrees only to address the trade distorting practices of STEs and we look forward to working with the Australian Government toward rules that reach this objective while protecting our country’s right to operate commercial Single Desks.
“What is clear is that the current structure with AWB operating as fully commercial and self-funded company is crucial to defending Single Desk marketing in international trade agreements and demonstrating that the system does not distort trade,” said Mr Stewart.
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