Chicken and egg producers throughout the EU will have been forgiven for a sigh of relief at the news at the end of July that the World Trade Organisation talks had ground to a halt, lifting the immediate threat of a deluge of third country imports.

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, described the collapse as a “painful failure, a real setback” with the nations that most needed help being hit hardest. They were the ones that needed most the chances and the opportunities from a successful trade round, he said.

Proposal

Part of the WTO package was a proposal for poultry along with beef and pork to be designated “sensitive products” that would protect EU farmers from the deepest tariff cuts. In return, there would be “tariff-rate quotas” that would bring in third country product at zero or very low duties.

One world trade expert estimated that the minimum poultry tariff-rate quotas could be about 200,000t. “Huge in terms of world poultry trade,” he said.

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Peter Bradnock, British Poultry Council chief executive, had mixed feelings over the failure. At least, with the issue settled, the UK poultrymeat industry would know what was in store, but only up to a point, for there was still a lot to learn about the proposals. On the other hand, failure could leave the door wide open to a proliferation of bilateral agreements between WTO members.

Brussels does not see shell eggs and egg products as “sensitive”, causing concern at the British Egg Industry Council, where chief executive Mark Williams saw cut-price imports of dried egg as a potential problem area. Egg when it is dried was easy to transport around the world. There would be no guarantees either as to welfare of the flocks that laid the eggs or that would be coming on to the EU market by the front door, he said.

Agreement

There was agreement on how the special safeguard measures for developed countries such as the EU should be dealt with, but there were problems when it came to developing countries. India, China and others wanted to keep existing measures to protect against surges of imports from trade blocks like the EU.

Thomas Hind of the NFU’s Brussels Office suggested that there would be some EU producers who would not be too sorry about the collapse of the Doha round of talks. There will be a sense of relief that the EU’s high levels of market protection and theoretic ability to use export subsidies may be around for a while longer.

“It is fair to say that overall, the Doha Round would have opened up the EU market to greater competitive pressure. This would have undoubtedly posed challenges for some important sectors of UK agriculture, beef, pig and poultrymeat and sugar in particular,” he pointed out.

World trade talks

  • Current Doha round started in 2001
  • 153 countries involved in negotiations
  • Main aim is freer world trade