Dáil Éireann - Volume 412 - 13 November, 1991

Written Answers. - GATT Negotiations.

20. Mr. Hilliard asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will outline his assessment of developments, to date, on the GATT negotiations and of the extent to which this country will be affected by any further concessions to the American lobby.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy): The GATT Uruguay Round negotiations commenced in 1986 and were due to be completed by the end [1376] of 1990. However, this proved impossible because of wide-ranging differences in a number of areas including agriculture between the principal parties to the negotiations including the EC, US, the Cairns Group and Japan.

Discussions have been continuing in the GATT throughout most of this year and in so far as agriculture is concerned these have been concentrating largely on technical issues. While many of the technical agriculture questions have been clarified, the principal political matters remain unresolved. A further attempt is now underway in the GATT to bring the negotiations to finality and all of the main participants are committed to seeking agreement by the end of this year or early next year. The most recent impetus to the GATT round negotiations came at the weekend during discussions in The Hague between the Community and the US when both sides agreed to show flexibility to bring the round to a successful conclusion by the end of the year. While both the US and the EC say that some progress was made on agriculture at the meeting, significant problems still remain and negotiators from both sides were instructed to continue their work in Geneva in the coming days.

As the House will be aware, the Community's agriculture offer provides for a 30 per cent reduction in overall support over ten years from 1986, based on an aggregate measurement of support together with subsidiary commitments on border measures and on export supports. The US and the Cairns Group have been seeking a 75 per cent cut in support and protection for agriculture over ten years with a 90 per cent cut in export subsidies. This shows the extent of the gap to be bridged between the two sides. Obviously, the impact of further concessions by the Community would depend on the extent and type of concessions involved.

As the negotiations proceed I will be insisting that the community's global approach which requires coherence between commitments is fully respected. This is fundamental to the maintenance of the Common Agricultural Policy. I will also be seeking to ensure that credit is [1377] obtained for reform measures taken by the Community since the commencement of the Uruguay Round and that both the modalities and conditions including rebalancing attached to the Community's acceptance of tariffication are met. Another major point for me is that the various compensatory mechanisms which may flow from Common Agricultural Policy reform are accommodated within the “green box” of support policies to be continued without discipline.

I would also wish to advise the House that this issue will be discussed by Community Ministers in the Agriculture Council on 18/19 November when I will be emphasising the concerns to which I have adverted.