Cuba, Dominican Republic and others – market access (G/AG/NG/W/37) This proposal clearly reflects the market access issues that remained unresolved for the developing countries following the conclusion of the Uruguay Round. The complexity of some tariff regimes, the existence of tariff peaks and escalation and the lack of transparency in the administration of tariff quotas were the undesirable result of tariffication.
Thus, the recommendations made in this proposal move in the right direction in liberalizing market access for agricultural products. By recognizing the need to establish certain elements of special and differential treatment, the proposal makes it possible to resolve current imbalances in world trade in agricultural products.
The elimination of tariff peaks and escalation is essential, as the proposal mentions, for the diversification of exports from the developing countries. If these distortions are not eliminated, we will be condemned to exporting basic agricultural goods, more vulnerable to international price fluctuations, rather than products with greater value added which can be found in more lucrative sectors of the markets.
Colombia has a more ambitious target with regard to tariff quotas: we want to see them eliminated. Their elimination could take place in three stages: first, a review of the allocation of current in-quota volumes to ensure that they respond to current commercial realities and not to unrepresentative and sometimes arbitrary historical periods; secondly, a substantial increase in in-quota volumes; and finally the reduction of out-of-quota tariffs to the same level as in-quota rates.
It is clear that specific tariffs essentially constitute a minimum import price, which generates increased protection when they are combined with ad valorem tariffs. These complex tariff systems should be abolished, and in the process of the conversion from a specific tariff regime to an ad valorem tariff regime, care must be taken to ensure that the resulting level of protection is lower than previous levels.
Colombia supports the continued use of variable tariffs as an element of special and differential treatment for all of the developing countries, since this scheme has enabled such countries to respond promptly to excessive fluctuations in international prices of agricultural products without creating distortions on the domestic market.
We also favour the complete liberalization of trade in all tropical products, such liberalization having been acknowledged in the Agreement on Agriculture as a tool for enhancing the participation of developing countries in world trade in agricultural products.
Another element that could be considered under special and differential treatment in the market access area is the special agricultural safeguard. This safeguard could be used only during the new reform period, i.e. until the tariff reduction targets agreed in the negotiations are attained.
Likewise, considering the close link between distorting domestic support, export subsidies and market access, in the sense that domestic support and subsidies enable surplus production to be sold on international markets at reduced prices, impairing the competitiveness of products from developing countries and threatening their domestic markets, developing countries need to be allowed some flexibility in the new market access commitments. In this context, the negotiations should proceed from the premise that the developing countries will not make new market-access commitments until the countries which give most support to agricultural production and exports have substantially reduced export subsidies and distorting domestic support.