WTO proposes lower tariffs on agricultural products from poor nations

GENEVA, May 26, 2007 (AFP) – The World Trade Organisation on Saturday proposed sharply lowering tariffs on some agricultural products from poorer countries in exchange for them reducing trade protection measures. The WTO’s chief agriculture negotiator, Crawford Falconer, said the new proposal could allow for progress in the stalled Doha round of negotiations aimed at reducing barriers to global commerce.

Falconer said developed countries should reduce tariffs for tropical products to zero for tariffs currently situated at less than 25 percent, while those above that threshold should drop by 85 percent.

He also proposed limiting special safeguard mechanisms used by poorer countries that allow them to increase tariffs to protect their economies against abrupt influxes of imports.

“If this is a mechanism which would, when applied, be capable of being triggered literally hundreds of times in any given year, how is this to be reconciled with something that is ‘special’?” Falconer said.

He proposed making “this instrument workable and responsive to genuine need.”

That position goes against that of the G33, a group of 46 developing countries with large rural populations, including Indonesia, Ind