Report by the Committee on Agricultural Trade
The responsibilities of the NAFTA Committee on Agricultural Trade are outlined in Article 706 of the Agreement. They include responsibility for: a) monitoring and promoting cooperation on the implementation of Chapter 7, Section A of the NAFTA; b) providing a forum for the parties to consult on issues related to this section and, c) reporting annually to the Commission on the implementation of this section.
Since the last meeting of the NAFTA Commission, in June, 1905 in Toronto, the NAFTA Committee on Agricultural Trade has met on three separate occasions: March 14 -15 ,1996 in Mexico City; May 1, 1996 in Washington D.C. and June 19, 1996 in Ottawa. The minutes of these meetings (attached) provide a detailed account of proceedings.
To date, the Committee's meetings have provided an opportunity for the parties to: consult on a variety of trade issues; to examine domestic agricultural policy initiatives (ex. U.S. Farm Bill) and domestic and international market conditions for selected commodities (ex. grains and oilseeds); to examine opportunities for cooperation in other fore (ex. FTAA, WTO); to establish and provide impetus to the activities of specific working groups reporting to the Committee; and to develop a forward work plan for 1996/97.
Advisory Committee on Private Commercial Disputes for Agricultural Goods
Meetings at the officials level were held on April 30, 1996 in Washington and June 18, 1996 in Ottawa. A detailed terms of reference and workplan for 1996/97 were agreed upon. The first meeting of the Advisory Committee, which will include industry representatives from each of the parties, is scheduled for February 1997.
Working Group on Grade and Marketing Standards
Meetings of the Working Group were held on April 30, 1996 in Washington and June 18, 1996 in Ottawa. The meetings provided an opportunity for the parties to exchange information on their respective grading and marketing standards programs and on the role of standards and grading in the marketing of agricultural products. They also facilitated agreement on the elements of a workplan for 1996/97. For the moment, the parties have agreed to address grade and marketing standards issues in a trilateral forum rather than through the two bilateral working groups provided for in the Agreement.
Working Group on Agricultural Subsidies
The Working Group met on June 18, 1996 in Ottawa. The meeting provided an opportunity for the parties to examine and identify ways to implement the Group's mandate to work toward the elimination of all export subsidies affecting agricultural trade between the parties. In this regard the parties have agreed to a joint workplan for 1996/97 based upon cooperative research and the possibility of coordination of positions in international fora (ex. FTAA).
Working Group on Tariff Rate Quota Administration
The Working Group met on November 15, 1995 in Washington and on June 18, 1996 in Ottawa. The meetings provided an opportunity for the parties to review various aspects of their respective TRQ administration in relation to trade in agricultural products.
Forward Work Plan
Implementation of Market Access Commitments (Article 703). Working Group on Tariff Rate Quota Administration to monitor the commitments of the parties and provide for the timely exchange of information.
Domestic Support Measures (Article 704). Undertake to coordinate efforts to study and achieve domestic support measures in the three countries having minimal or no trade distorting or production effects and to provide for periodic reporting to the NAFTA Committee on Agricultural Trade through the Working Group on Agricultural Subsidies.
Working Group on Agricultural Subsidies (Article 705). As a means of achieving the stated objective of multilateral elimination of export subsidies for agricultural goods and with a view to furthering the objective of eliminating all export subsidies affecting trade in the NAFTA region, examine the basis for jointly approaching the European Union to explore the feasibility of making first the NAFTA region and then, through the FTAA process, the Western Hemisphere export subsidy free zones on a sectoral or product basis. As an initial step in this direction, the parties will develop an inventory of agricultural product exports from the EU into the NAFTA region that are believed to benefit from export subsidies.
Advisory Committee on Private Commercial Disputes in Agricultural Goods (Article 707). An Industry-Government Advisory Committee will be formed involving representatives form the three countries with a view to identifying, initially, fresh fruit and vegetable industry goals and recommendations for government consideration and the development of options for Private Dispute Settlement Mechanisms. Any options would be compatible with and may improve existing systems and will aim for the harmonization or establishment of common standards for the use of each party and potentially extend into other agricultural commodities.
Agricultural Grading and Marketing Standards Working Group It was agreed that the group would work towards enhancing understanding among the NAFTA parties and their respective private sectors of the nature and operation of grading and marketing standards that affect agricultural trade between the three countries. The Working Group will also review existing, changed, or new grading and/or marketing standards programs in the NAFTA countries, focusing particularly on how such programs might be designed and operated to facilitate trade and to be consistent with trade obligations.